Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011
Modesto’s Bucio, dead at 53, led bands, inspired kids to play
By Kerry McCray – email@example.com E-Mail
Ernie Bucio knew how to get a crowd excited. Especially a crowd of grade-schoolers.
He’d hold up a trumpet. Then he’d hold up a toilet plunger. He’d insert one into the other and come up with — well — a beautiful sound.
It’s an old jazz musician’s trick, and Mr. Bucio — a fan of all things jazz — used it to show kids that music could be fun.
“He showed them his love for music and they came to love music as well,” said Martin Martinez, a trombone player and longtime friend of Mr. Bucio’s.
Mr. Bucio, 53, died Saturday night, two weeks after suffering a massive stroke. The Modesto musician, bandleader and music teacher was known for many things, from performing with Ernie Bucio’s Little Big Band to helping form the New Horizons Band, where retired people learned to play an instrument for the first time.
What’s the one thing he would want to be remembered for? Helping young people get started in music.
“He’d give everybody he could an opportunity to play,” said Jan Leer, a music teacher who recently bought Gottschalk Music Center in Modesto with Mr. Bucio, his wife, Karen, and another business partner, Nkechi Ikpo.
Mr. Bucio was raised in Ceres and graduated from Ceres High School. He attended California State University, Stanislaus.
He played piano until the sixth grade when a friend brought home a shiny, new trumpet.
Mr. Bucio asked his father for one like it, and “he never stopped playing after that,” Leer said.
Like most horn players, he gravitated toward jazz. In high school, he’d drive to Modesto to see a Downey High School jazz band perform.
That’s when he noticed saxophonist Martin Martinez. The two went on to play in many bands together.
But the connection between the two friends began years earlier. They both checked out jazz records from the Modesto library. Often, Martinez said, the names of the two boys would be the only names on the card.
Martinez often went along when Mr. Bucio visited schools on behalf of Gottschalk Music Center, where Mr. Bucio worked as a salesman and gave private lessons. Record numbers of fifth-graders signed up for bands after seeing the trick with the trumpet and the plunger.
“He figured if he could inspire people to love music, they would find the passion that he had,” Martinez said.
Mr. Bucio played in MoBand — the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County — as well as several other groups, including Ernie Bucio’s Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Gottschalk Concert Band. These groups have played weddings, downtown restaurant gigs, X-Fest and everything in between, including working with the YES! Company and Modesto Performing Arts.
They’ve also performed at Carnegie Hall and in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Mr. Bucio and the others this summer bought the music store from owner C.K. Gottschalk, whose parents started the enterprise in 1936.
The partners’ intent, Leer said, was not just to run a business that has become synonymous with music education in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. They wanted to continue to reach out to young people in an era in which music often is cut from schools.
Just as Mr. Bucio reached out to students when he visited schools.
“It was more than just representing the store,” Martinez said. “For Ernie, it was about encouraging students’ potential.”
Mr. Bucio’s family is working on funeral arrangements. A date has not been set.
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at (209) 578-2358.
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