Paul Schalm was one of the three longest standing conductors of the Kitchener Musical Society Band.
Paul and his brother Wilf were born in British Columbia. From early childhood, it was destined that music would become an integral part of their lives. Their father, who had never received any musical training, learned the baritone horn and tuba and played in the church band. Uncle Bernhardt and grandfather Gustav both loved music and composed a number of Christian hymns.
The Schalm family moved to Kitchener, Ontario in 1960. Soon afterwards piano lessons started. Paul first studied with the father of a long-standing clarinetist of the band, Doug Hainsworth. Later he studied with George Ziegler who was then the conductor of the K.M.S.B. He began playing cornet in his church band at age 8 and by the time he was 13 he was accompanying the choir on piano. Soon he was playing for all the services and for years, he was the only accompanist. If he was not present, the singing was a capella! Needless to say, his parents made it a priority that Paul never miss a service!
Paul attended Eastwood Collegiate Institute, where he has fond memories of playing in the orchestra pit for musicals such as My Fair Lady and Oliver.
In 1976, Paul started teaching mathematics at Listowel D.S.S. Three years later, a position teaching math and music opened up at his old high school back in Kitchener and he has been teaching there ever since. Presently Assistant Head of the Mathematics Department, he has been involved in the extra-curricular music program, accompanying choirs and assisting with rehearsals for annual musical productions.
In 1976, Paul began playing trumpet with the Kitchener Musical Society Band, where he was recently presented with his pin for 25 years of service.
Paul and Dolores were married in 1977 and made Kitchener their home. They have two sons, Andrew and Stephen.
Paul's first conducting experience began in 1978 with the 30 piece concert band at his church; he also enjoyed arranging music for the band as a hobby. More than twenty years later, he still plays piano at the church and conducts the choir on a volunteer basis.
Paul's experience conducting bands both at school and in the church lead K.M.S.B. bandmaster David Howell to occasionally ask Paul to fill in with the baton when he was away. This continued with Ben Scott who followed David as conductor. 1987 was a sabbatical year for Ben and Paul accepted the role of interim conductor. When Ben died of cancer in 1989, Paul was appointed conductor.
Under Paul's tutelage the band grew in size, travelled more and continued to play a variety of music appealing to all ages. Paul's enthusiasm for band music drew a number of graduates of Eastwood's music program to the band. Band attendance averaged close to 40 volunteer musicians at rehearsals and concerts. In addition to its annual summer trips to Port Elgin or Southampton and Stratford, longer overnight trips to Frankenmuth and Ottawa were made to perform there. At home in Kitchener, where the vast majority of free public performances are held, Christmas and New Years Day at the new Kitchener City Hall have been additional annual highlights. Paul and the band executive under president Harry Yanke continued to seek new places to spread the enjoyment of concert band music wherever possible and to promote awareness and enjoyment of concert band music within our community.
The Band celebrated its 125th anniversary with a concert and celebration in Victoria Park on August 19th, 2001. At the Open House reception in the Victoria Park Pavilion, an incredible display wrapping around the perimeter of the main floor reminded everyone of the Band's rich history and its long-standing record of service to the Community. Rich Mills and Laverne Hett were largely responsible for the displays.
Paul was also instrumental in the establishment of a scholarship fund to financially assist those interested in formal music training. George Holmes, retired music teacher and enthusiastic band supporter, administers the fund.
Although Paul relinquished the leadership of the Band, the legacy of music and voluntary service lives on in the Schalm family. Stephen (son of Paul and Dolores), Wilf and his daughter, Rebecca, also have contributed and some remain active members.