Posted Online: May 04, 2008, 7:10 pm

R.I. schools losing friend in retiring band director

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By Jessica Fink,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Dave Hamburg, Band teacher at Ridgewood elementary school in Rock Island, sits on the benches in the school's band room that is decorated with various Green Bay Packers photos and clippings. Mr. Hamburg directed band in Orion prior to his 12 years with the Rock Island schools, but will be retiring at the end of this school year.

He's known for quirky novelty ties -- he has more than 120 -- and is called "Mr. Wonderful" by his students.

Dave Hamburg, band and orchestra director for the Rock Island-Milan School District, is retiring at the end of the school year, after nearly 12 years of service.

Mr. Hamburg teaches sixth-graders at Ridgewood, Longfellow, Audubon and Francis Willard elementary schools. He was band director for the Orion School District for 18 years before moving to the Rock Island district.

"He's always making jokes and never yells," said sixth-grader Ashlee Moore, 12, a saxophone player at Francis Willard. "He's just a really fun person to work with and so helpful. It's like he's my friend."

Francis Willard music teacher Mara Goodvin said his enthusiasm and drive for life reflect in his teaching. "He'll do anything in his power to get instruments into students' hands if they don't have the means to do it themselves.

"There aren't many people out there who fight so hard for our kids," she said. "To him, music is worth that fight."

"Mr. Wonderful" has his mischievous side, something friend and fellow Quad-Cities Brass Quintet member Alan Guss, 59, can attest to.

"He'll untie our shoes during performances," Mr. Guss said. "He'll have a rest in the song and pretend to drop sheet music on the floor but reaches over to untie my shoes instead. I can't do anything about it because I'm playing."

With his shoulder-length hair, full beard and peaceful demeanor, the 55-year-old Mr. Hamburg makes a lasting impression on people, Mr. Guss said.

"He has this unbelievable knack for remembering theme songs from TV shows that date back to the '60s, which is one of the weirdest things ever," Mr. Guss said. "He'll just pick up his trumpet and play away."

"I tell students I was born to be a musician," said Mr. Hamburg. "Music has always been what I've been about."

He said seeing students progress musically makes all the hard work worth it and is something he'll miss greatly.

Mr. Hamburg's favorite song is Sergei Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto. "It always gets me," he said. "It's just so emotional. I get tears every time I listen to it."

Those who know Mr. Hamburg know of his love for the Green Bay Packers.

"He's got the Cheesehead hat, owns stock in the team and has green underwear," Mr. Guss said. "I think he even eats green food. It's quite possible that broccoli reminds him of a football game."

Mr. Hamburg lives in Bettendorf with his wife, Karin. They have two daughters: Erin, 24, and Alla, 18. After retirement, he plans to spend more time with his wife, and do some autocross racing, golfing, remodeling and dedicate more time to music.

"He's a very, very skilled woodworker," Mr. Guss said. "And he's quite the cook, especially his key lime pie."

"He finds ways to draw kids in," Ms. Goodvin said. "He has a passion for music and wants his students to feel the same passion."

Dave Hamburg

--Grew up in Rockton, Ill., and graduated from Hononegah High School.

--1970 to 1973: Enlisted in the Army as a member of the North American Air Defense, NORAD, a touring band comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force and Canadian members.

--1973: Played for a year in a seven-member rock band, All God's Children.

--1974 to 1977: Majored in music education at Northern Illinois University. Played in the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Beloit Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.

--1978: Married Karin, an Orion School District English teacher.

--1978 to 1996: Served as band director for the Orion School District.

--1996 to present: Band and orchestra director for the Rock Island-Milan School District.

--Has been a part of the Quad-Cities Brass Quintet since 1991 and is an avid member of the Quad-City Parrothead Club.