Hope Secondary School music teacher Bob Tarr performs with the Jazz Banditz on Saturday at the Hope Station House.

Local music icon in concert

Bob Tarr performs with Jazz Banditz on Saturday at the Hope Station House

The Fraser-Cascade School District brought music teacher Bob Tarr to Hope back in 2001, and ever since then the bar for local live music performance quality has been rising.

Early on Hope’s own nationally-awarded songwriter Chuck Brickley singled him out, emphasizing that, “you won’t find a better sax man from here to Vancouver.”

Tarr discovered his passion for music in high school, and decided to continue his musical studies after graduation. He started playing sax professionally as an under-age bar performer in Prince Rupert.

After earning a bachelor of jazz at Capilano College he fronted a Prince Rupert band called the Airheads playing mostly original jazz/funk tunes.

He was also a part of the Undecideds, a 12-piece R&B band, where he met his future wife Summer. Tarr followed his teaching career to Silver Creek Elementary and Hope, the extended-family hearth of his wife, granddaughter of Jack and Betty DeLair.

Tarr has followed in the footsteps of his and Summer’s high school band teacher, Peter Witherly.

Witherly was a great teacher and is still, even in retirement, a huge contributor to the music community in Prince Rupert. Because of him, Tarr founded the Fraser River Big Band in Hope. Tarr, also a talented composer and arranger, contributed 10 of his own big band arrangements to the Fraser River Big Band.

High points have included playing for the Hope Blues Festival, the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor, renowned long-time local politician and arts supporters Bud and Elaine Gardner, and all-time Canadian big band great Bobby Hales, who was heard weekly on CBC for decades.

Not long after moving to Hope, Tarr was recruited by the Big Night Out Band, the very group that backs internationally famed Tina Turner impersonator, Luisa Marshall. Tarr arranged for Marshall to grace the Brigade Days main stage this year.

Through the Big Night Out Band he met many great fellow musicians and together they formed Groove n Tonic, quickly becoming Vancouver’s premiere party band and playing such venues as the Grand Villa and Starlight Casinos.

“When putting a band together, you must have unity in order to be successful,” said Tarr.

“Everybody involved must have an understanding of the band’s goal. All members must be willing to put in the time and effort to make it work. It takes unity to have a successful band where everybody comes to practice ready and knowing their part. With Groove n Tonic, we definitely have that unity.”

Every time Tarr makes a musical connection, he not only finds a new band mate or potential gig, he finds a new friend.

The musical community becomes like family to Tarr and his wife. It is a connection for life.

“Music is amazing in how it can bond people,” said Tarr’s wife Summer.

Tarr’s musical inspirations include the late Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Lenny Pickett, but music is not his only passion.

Often you can find Tarr on the golf course. He grew up golfing with his dad and younger brother. They each had their own little sawed off club with an electrician’s tape wrapped handle made for them by their dad. His children Carson and Ella will soon be joining him on the course. Tarr always finds time for his family.

“You can often find him strumming the guitar and singing a crazy song with the kids,” said Summer, adding he cooks with a passion when he isn’t gigging.

Tarr shares his talent daily with his students. He hopes that his musical experiences outside of school will also inspire his students to move on in music. The Hope Secondary School (HSS) concert band was the first to earn an invitation and attend Music Fest Canada last year.

As a teacher, his wish is that his students will gain an appreciation for good music and the ambition to practice and strive to better themselves. He hopes that they remember the fun they had in class, the band trips and, most importantly, the music.

Last, but not least, is Tarr’s own quartet, the Jazz Banditz. A straight ahead jazz band featuring Tarr and former HSS band teacher Wes Laing on saxophones, Dave Geurtsen on piano and Joe Warren on drums. The Banditz perform a variety of great jazz tunes including some originals, and their own creative take on some beloved standards. Their first album, Getaway, is available on iTunes. You can learn more about them by visiting Tarr’s website at http://www.saxtarr.com.

The full Jazz Banditz band plays one night only at the Hope Station House on Saturday, Oct. 15. Tickets include dinner and a show, and are available in advance at the Headliner Barber Shop (located at the Hope Motor Hotel), or by contacting the Station House at  hopestationhouse@gmail.com, 604-869-5956 or 604-860-3126.

Proceeds will go to the roof restoration project.