For anyone who is a part of the CGB community, it’s a safe bet that Cal, the institution, is an important part of your life, possibly for many years now. The friends you made, the professors who inspired you, the sheer energy and passion of that place, all led to indelible experiences that shaped who you are today. And if Cal Athletics is a deep part of your connection to Cal, I’m almost positive the Cal Band was part of those youthful moments when that connection was forged.
Just as the Cal Band is an irreplaceable institution at Cal, its director—Robert Calonico—is an institution in the Cal Band. He was the director when I first joined the band many years ago and despite his announcement this week that he will retire at the end of this academic year, it’s honestly difficult to imagine the band with anyone else up on the ladder in his place. For now, I’m not going to try.
For those who’ve been a part of it, the Cal Band was an incredibly special part of our undergraduate experience and Bob (as he’s simply known to bandsmen) is an important part of that. Bob didn’t build the Band, but as a former bandsman himself, he knew what made the Band special: the preservation of the Cal spirit, the student-run nature of the organization, and a culture that emphasized fun—for the performers *and* the audience. In the hands of someone less-skilled, or someone who didn’t “get” the Band, such attributes may have been sacrificed or lost along the way; the Cal Band might have become just like any other band. If the sum of our work is what we leave behind, Bob has left a very special institution to his successor.
To bandsmen, Bob was a teacher, a friend, frankly a better musician than the Band needed, and he knew when he could joke along with students and when he needed to call someone out for the good of the Band. Student-run bands need the continuity he provided, but he also gave the student leaders the freedom and responsibility they needed to grow and flourish as leaders. Under Bob, performance mattered, pride mattered, and showing up the U$C Band mattered—because fuck those guys.
Despite being five paragraphs in, I can’t really do Bob’s career justice. His career is in the experiences and memories of thousands of bandsmen—the individual moments of education and insight every great teacher leaves his students with. Their memories and their stories are his legacy and I hope you’ll run across some of the many I’ve seen on social media over the last couple days.
Congrats on your retirement, Bob. It’s well-deserved, and you will be missed.