BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE)
By Alicia Anstead Of the NEWS Staff
1 non-Xena graphic.
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.
[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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