Bob Golightly

Music is the Universal Language. The World Would be a Lot Poorer Without it

Bob Golightly—clarinetist in The Sequim City Band

“I listened to the popular stuff of the day on the radio, the old standards, the big bands,” says Bob Golightly. “Then, when I was in high school, I saw a performance by Stan Kenton’s band in a large convention hall in Kansas City. I remember standing in front of the stage for hours watching them play. It was so different from just listening to their music on the radio. I could see how they played and the joy it brought them.”

In the late forties and early fifties, the big bands led by the likes of Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Stan Kenton would come to Topeka and even smaller towns in Kansas. Bob had a rich experience of listening and dancing to music played live.

It was something about the complexity and mechanical intricacies of woodwind instruments that drew Bob to the clarinet. When he was finishing up sixth grade in 1945, he took lessons in downtown Topeka, Kansas, then joined the Crane Junior High band there.  He continued playing in high school and college bands and orchestras.

“Sports and music weren’t compatible,” he said. “I chose music over sports.”

Life, as it often does, diverted Bob in another direction. He served in the Air Force for 21 years. He flew fighter planes in Morocco, Germany, and Vietnam, and was also stationed in  Japan and Hawaii. He was sent to Stanford University to study computers in the early days of emerging technology.

“I loved flying,” Bob said. “I didn’t play music during my time in the Air Force, but I always had music at home. I had great sound systems.”

He moved to Sequim in 1997 after a career that included working for  City College of Chicago in Germany, Honeywell in Poulsbo, and contracting with the Washington State Department of Licensing in Olympia. In 1999, he joined a hiking club. A fellow hiker, Edith Christie,  played bass clarinet in the Sequim City Band, which had been formed just seven years earlier. Are you interested in joining the Band, she asked him.

Bob hadn’t played in 43 years but said he would give it a shot. He did, and it transported him back to what he remembered from his early days playing, listening to, and watching music be played. He’s been a member of the Band ever since.

In addition to the Sequim City Band, Bob has played in a clarinet quartet called The Marmalades and subbed for an alto sax player one season in a local big band.

“I always feel better after playing. I enjoy the music. It’s restorative,” Bob says. “When you get with other people you get motivated to play as best you can. You’re always aiming for perfect performance.”

He’s missed that camaraderie during the pause the Band has taken during this pandemic. And he thinks live music is important to Sequim. It’s a universal language that everyone understands. It’s apolitical, pulling people together rather than dividing them.

“If you look online,” he says, “there is a thing called ‘Playing for Change.’  It’s about people from around the world joining together, virtually, to create beautiful music.  It unites and is joyous.”

Joyous. That’s what music is for Bob Golightly. Look for his expression of joy as he plays when the Sequim City Band returns.

When he was in high school, Bob was enthralled being part of an audience watching and listening to musicians. Now that he is on stage performing, he can feel the music transform the moment from the other side. He has seen the band grow in size and popularity since he joined in 1999. The band is hoping to build an extension to Swisher Hall, which is bursting at the seams as the band membership has grown. In this case, bursting at the seams is a good thing. It’s a testament to the band’s commitment to changing the atmosphere through music.