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See ya later, Paz


Posted 02/11/99

BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE)
01/21/99
By Alicia Anstead Of the NEWS Staff
Page ?
1 non-Xena graphic.

EXCERPT

COMMENTARY
A local Bango, Maine music teacher died of heart complications, and the article about him mentions that he had a XENA poster in his office.

PRIMARY SOURCE

[snip]

   Sometimes, Richard Pasvogel showed up for work as Beethoven.

   Other times, he would be a '50s rocker in a leather jacket, or a
country-and-western singer with a gun holster.  The favorite
disguise, the one that lingered, was "Paz, King of Rhythm," and he
wore a crown to prove his reign.

   So when Paz, a tenacious music teacher in the Searsport and
Bucksport school systems, didn't show up for work one day earlier
this month, everyone worried.  They worried about his ailing heart.

   They worried about his solitary life.  They worried about his clumsy
driving in the snow.  They worried about their teacher, friend and
co-worker.

   Still, they were stunned at the news: Paz had died in his sleep
from complications with his heart.  He was 41.

   Any way you look at Paz's death, it's tragic.  He was beloved --
the type of master teacher whose lessons lodge themselvesin the
lifelong memories of students.  He was also a determined musician
who had fun with pop music but worshiped classical.  He nurtured
voices in community musicals and in the church choir.  As an
accompanist, he had a rare willingness to follow the singer, rather
than demand the singer follow him.

   And Paz had a sense of humor that was subtle and zany.  When he
was teaching at a summer music camp years ago, he persuaded flutist
Liz Downing to reverse the spelling of their names.  They became Zap
and Zil.  Corny, yes, but the effect was one of goofy hilarity and
kids liked it.  Then they could get on with the business of
learning.

   That was the essence of Richard Pasvogel.  More than 10 years
ago, when he agreed to let me interview him, we talked about his
work and the calling he felt.  He was teaching piano at the time,
playing keyboards for a rock band, doing percussion for the Bangor
Symphony, directing musicals and, to support his artistic habits,
working as a salesman at Sears.

   It's hard to imagine Paz as an effective salesman.  He was often
shy, often clever, always soft-spoken, never pushy.

   In a recent conversation with his mother, Eleanor Pasvogel, who
lives in Paz's hometown of Tucson, Ariz., she told me that Paz, the
youngest of her three children, was a "nice little kid," a private
adult, and a loving son.  The family had moved to Maine in time for
Paz to go to Cony High School in Augusta, but when everyone else
moved back to Tucson, Paz stayed behind, went to the University of
Maine, and built a life different from the comforts he had known
with his stay-home mother and hard-working father, who was a
professor and a businessman.

   Paz's father, Myron, who died of heart problems 15 years ago,
was a pianist, too, Mrs. Pasvogel said.  It was clear from early on,
when young Richard taught himself to read before entering first
grade, that he was an artist.  His first passion was painting, but
he took to the piano in grade school and found his niche.

   Mrs. Pasvogel was shocked to find out her son's life had been
so expansive and inspiring in Maine.  He had never spoken of his
work to her.

   "We had no idea and we are so honored," she said in a strong
voice.  "I don't think he ever thought he was doing anything grand. "

   But, ofcourse, he was -- in the tender way of reticent heroes.

   He had fought the battles of his 20s and, finally, rejected the
wild life that comes with playing rock music.  In recent years, Paz
had found his center in teaching, coaching girls sports, close
friendships, and a nutty schedule that often found him alone.

   Paz had dated occasionally, but he had no aspirations to marry,
one of his buddies told me.  If it happened, it happened.  "I've done
everything I want in life," he was known to say.

   In the last few weeks, colleagues have found more than a
thousand letters from students in Paz's messy office at school.

   That's the same office, by the way, where a poster of the TV star
Xena hung.  And, no doubt, where students teased him for having
"chicken legs," and where he planned camping trips, and where he
revealed music to hundreds of children.

   The gift of Paz, I am told, is that he had reached adulthood,
but he was still childlike.

   "He pretty much was a kid, a big kid," his friend, Mike
Garcelon, said.

   At Paz's funeral, where more than 700 people filled two church
rooms with sobs and tears, one of Paz's original compositions was
performed by a fellow musician.  The opening lyrics are: "When I
grow up, I want to be somebody you'll be proud to know.  When I grow
up, I want to be somebody who can dream of a way to change all the
things I see wrong.  When I grow up, I just want to be free. "

   Indeed, these are youthful sentiments Paz wrote for students,
but they reveal a mission to encourage and to transform.

   "Whatever he was doing, he went all the way," said Garcelon.

   "That's why the kids just adored him.  He'd do anything to spark
their interest in music.  In the last five years, he had really
become a teacher. "

   Once, when his students thought Paz should have more of a
social life, they bought him a goldfish to keep him company.

   As memories, these come too soon for all of us.  Ask anyone who
knew Paz -- he never said an unkind word, never blew up, never gave
up.  He was aware of his heart problem and had an appointment to see
a surgeon at the end of this month.  When a community loses one
of its quiet treasures suddenly, it starts with a shock, settles
into a pain and then has to find a way to adjust.  Some will
continue that process Saturday when amemorial service for Paz
takes place at the Orrington Congregational Church.  Others will
linger over a final "See ya" -- a farewell Paz preferred to
"goodbye. "

   When I asked Paz the secret of his teaching success, he told
me, "Play as much as possible     if you do this, then all those
possibilities are waiting somewhere inside of you. "

   It's good advice to recall as we say "See ya" to Paz, King of
Rhythm.

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