Column: Herb Krichbaum’s legacy lives on

Herb Krichbaum was a piano teacher. He was Galion High School’s choir director. He led the community chorus for 30 years in its annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” He directed his choir at his church. He was the voice of the Galion Tigers’ marching band.

He was all of those things, and much more.

But mostly, Herb Krichbaum was a gentleman, a genuinely nice guy, a class act, who died Sunday at age 96.

Herb Krichbaum played a huge role in the lives of thousands of students and adults in and around Galion.

I first met him in the late 1960s. I am one of many he taught to play the piano.

He also gave vocal lessons, and those students also grew and learned and prospered under his guidance.

Weekly — as a youth — I went to the band room at Galion’s old high school, and for 30 minutes, Herb Krichbaum tried to teach me how to better play the the piano and explained to me how important it was to be able to read music.

I wasn’t his best student, and in no way, shape or form did my piano skills didn’t come naturally. I had to practice.

And I hated practicing.

My mother, Nancy Kent, tried to get me to practice daily, and I tend to be a bit stubborn at times.

Still, despite my lack of enthusiasm for the piano, Krichbaum worked with me. He worked on my hand positioning, reminding me not to let my wrists droop.

And then he would turn on that metronome atop the grand piano to help me keep time as my fat, awkward fingers fumbled my way through the piece I was supposed to have learned to play that week.

Lord knows he was a patient man.

I rarely play the piano today.

But I can read music. And I have an appreciation for music I would not otherwise have developed.

Few know this, but I sing all the time … at home, with the windows closed. I also sing in the car … also with the windows closed. Perhaps if I had taken vocal lessons, too, I could sing in public, like everyone else in my musically-inclined family.

But it was hard enough coming up with reasons to not practice the piano. Coming up with excuses not to practice my vocal exercises would have been too time-consuming.

Today, many of Krichbaum’s former students are singing or playing the piano for a living, or for their own pleasure. They are leading church choirs and singing in bands. And they are teaching music in one fashion or another.

Krichbaum’s annual summer recitals in the high school band room were standing room only. And those cold, steel chairs were not just filled with the parents and families and friends of his students. They were filled with Krichbaum’s former students and mentors and friends.

If you played the piano, took part in a choir or took lessons from Krichbaum, you are better today for having had that experience.

If you attended a football game at Heise Park, you listened to Krichbaum’s voice as he announced the marching band’s pre-game, halftime and post-game performances.

You could not noticing, and reacting, to the enthusiasm in his voice.

And like Krichbaum, that enthusiasm was real. Hehad a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face whenever I saw him.

That was Herb Krichbaum in a nutshell.

I don’t go to a lot of high school football games anymore. I listen from around a fire in my back yard.

But I attended a game a few years ago and I bumped in to Herb Krichbaum in the crowd. I had not seen him in 15 or 20 years, and wanted to introduce myself to him again and just say hi.

But he recognized me. He called me by name. He asked how I was doing. He asked how my parents and brothers and sisters were doing.

That’s the kind of guy he was.

There are many high school and college courses dubbed “music appreciation.”

I never took a music appreciation class. I didn’t need to.

I learned to appreciate music from Herb Krichbaum. He’s the reason I developed and have maintained a love for melodies and rifts and scales and chords and rests and …

Judging from social media posts Sunday evening, Krichbaum is fondly remembered by many.

Here are a few comments from Facebook:“My life is what it is today greatly due to his influence in it.”

“So sorry to hear this. He was a great influence on so many of us!”

“He loved music and he passed that appreciation on to us everyday!!!! A wonderful man. RIP Mr Krichbaum!!!”

“He was the nicest gentleman. Sorry to hear this.”

“Mr. Krichbaum was such an encourager! Was blessed to study voice under him and be in the GHS choir.”

I am proud to have played a small part in what I will call “The Golden Age of Music” at Galion High School, when Krichbaum headed up the vocal department and Jack Arlen led the bands.

And nothing better signaled the start of a Galion football game on Friday night than the drum beat of the Tigers’ marching band approaching Heise Park for the pre-game show. And then, from above, you heard Herb Krichbaum’s melodious voice over that scratchy sound system as he introduced the band.

Arlen died April 2, 2015. In an odd coincidence, Krichbaum died April 2, 2017.

Galion’s loss is heaven’s gain.

I’m pretty certain with Jack Arlen and Herb Krichbaum together again, there is a rehearsal going on up there, and quite soon, there is going to be a damn good concert.

Email comments or story ideas to Russ Kent at [email protected] or [email protected]

Russ Kent

Inquirer Editor

Email comments or story ideas to Russ Kent at [email protected] or [email protected]