WEEKEND: Benefit concert to honor Clallam County musician

JOYCE — When Roger Baller went to his son Brad’s wedding, he saw — and heard — a sound that stirred a sweet memory.

It was a big band made up of “old-timers he used to play with,” recalled Brad.

“That was the best money I ever spent,” he added of the band he hired for his wedding reception. “Everybody danced.”

Soon after, Roger Baller picked up his trumpet again. He was 70 at the time and living in Joyce — and after sharpening his chops, he joined the Stardust Big Band and the Sequim City Band.

He also took a music course at Peninsula College and sat in with the school’s jazz ensemble.

“He played a sweet trumpet,” recalled Bobbie Usselman, a friend of Baller’s and the clarinetist and tenor saxophonist with Stardust.

“He was quite a musician, [but] he was very humble,” added Craig Buhler, Stardust’s leader.

“He was a joy to be around.”

Dance concert

Baller’s friends plan to spread that joy in a dance concert at the Crescent Grange, 50870 state Highway 112, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday. The public is welcome.

The 17-piece Stardust Big Band will play in honor of Baller, who died of cancer Aug. 7.

Admission is by donation, and proceeds will go toward restoration of the Crescent School District music program.

Staffing for the school band and other music classes was cut two years ago because of the state’s budget crisis, said Crescent Principal Tom Anderson.

“We were deeply saddened,” he said. “We would love to reinstate the band program.”

Although he didn’t estimate when that might happen, Anderson said the Baller benefit will help provide funding for future chorus and band classes.

Loved ‘Stardust,’ Joyce

Baller’s family felt that Crescent School would be the ideal beneficiary because, Brad said, Stardust and Joyce were two things his dad enjoyed to the fullest.

“He loved everybody he met in Joyce,” he said.

“He thought it was the best place in the world to live.”

Baller began playing trumpet as a boy growing up in Hoquiam. His family later moved to Bellingham, and Baller got to playing in big bands while still in high school.

He traveled the world with the U.S. Navy Band and then returned to the Puget Sound region to raise his sons, Brad and Brian, both of whom became musicians.

Brad plays violin and mandolin, among other instruments, while Brian is a banjo man and guitarist.

Baller retired and moved to Joyce in 1995 after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service in Tacoma.

With great fondness, Brad remembers how his father found devoted friends among his fellow players — and even after he became ill, Baller practiced a good four hours a day.

“That kept him alive,” his son believes, “longer than anything else.”

Baller lived to be 82.

When asked what his father’s favorite songs were, Brad replied that the list would be endless.

“They go on forever,” he said.

Those who would like to support music education at Crescent School can also mail checks to Crescent School District, P.O. Box 20, Joyce, WA 98343, with “music program, Baller” on the memo line.

For more information, phone Brad Baller at 206-933-6335 or email bradballer@comcast.net.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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