December 15, 2006 will forever change my life. I met Bob Arnell that evening at a big band dance event he was holding at his private ballroom. Twelve musicians dressed in black and white played big band swings. It was a magical night. To my despair, Only Herb and I were sitting enjoying this gift. As I left that night I approached his wife Teddy and said, if you contact me next year when you start your concert series again, I will help you fill this room.
A long story short...Bob allowed me to start a dance club in 2007 and today we have touched more than 200 people with lessons, social events, nursing home performances and our Friday Social Dances have filled the room every third Friday night. Bob left us to play at some divine band, every day I remember his gift and wished God has given him more time on this earth. However, every third Friday night, he is present in my heart when his band honors his memory with music so special worth a thousand words.
One of the first things one should know about Bob Arnell was that he was a Veteran of World War II. He served his country with distinction aboard the Battleship Alabama. Bob Arnell was a product of a generation that prized hard-work, patriotism and service to country. Bob Arnell was an American.
The second thing one should know about Bob Arnell was that he was a musician of the highest order. He was a graduate of the Julliard School of Music. Juilliard is perhaps the most prestigious school of music in the United States. Juilliard is an institution that prizes classical training. Bob Arnell was a saxophonist, which has always been considered a jazz instrument. It is indeed a credit to his musical talents that Bob Arnell was one of only fifty-two saxophone players who have ever been accepted into the Julliard School of Music.
Bob was also a graduate of the State University at Albany where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music. He taught in the Otselic Valley School system for twenty-three years where he was Director of Bands.
When he retired from teaching Bob redirected his prodigious musical talents towards new endeavors. He became a master at repairing musical instruments and in 1984 opened up Arnell’s Music Store. Arnell’s Music Store rents, sells and repairs band instruments.
Bob’s love of music never strayed beyond the tips of his fingers or the very breath that he took. After retiring from teaching, Bob formed the ‘Chenangoans.’ The Chenangoans were and are a group of professional musicians who performed under the outwardly grumpy but always benevolent umbrella of Bob Arnell. He treated his musicians well and the group is still performing at the Norwich Dance Club functions.
In his desire to spread culture Bob created an oasis of creativity in downtown Norwich, in a beautifully restored building fittingly named the Renaissance Building. One of the first things Bob did was build a Ballroom that is the equal of any that might be found in larger cities. The Renaissance Building is the home of artists and musicians.
It was in the Renaissance Building, with the blessing of Bob Arnell, that the Norwich Dance Club was created. Bob Arnell was taken from us but he left us his private ballroom to dance and dance some more.
In the soulful notes of a saxophone solo, the rustle of music sheets being turned, the banter of musicians between songs, the gliding of feet across a Ballroom floor and in the end…the sound of applause to Bob Arnell for the gift of music and a life well lived.