Grandkids know PawPaw plays a mean sax
As a child, he was king for a day in the St. Agnes Elementary School carnival parade, but these days, Dave Schof says he’s equally ennobled watching eight of his grandchildren play music in Jesuit and St. Mary’s Dominican high school bands.
“Just seeing what these grandkids have accomplished gives me the satisfaction of knowing I have been a small part in it,” said Schof, a St. Philip Neri extraordinary minister of holy Communion. “It’s great.”
Schof, 76, was a four-year band letterman at Jesuit High School when he graduated in 1956. He put down his saxophone after his sophomore year at Tulane University because he was busy earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering (funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation), getting married, forging a career and raising five children, mostly in Mobile, Alabama.
It took his grandchildren in New Orleans to bring music back to his life and, ultimately, to create his dream group – Paw Paw’s Band – in which he plays alongside his grandkids.
Schof says when his granddaughter Kristin Schof, who plays the flute, was in the third grade at Our Lady of Divine Providence, he heard the school band in which she performed needed help. Band director Claire Conti asked Kristin to ask the active parish volunteer – whom she learned played music – to volunteer.
Schof’s response to his granddaughter – now a senior and a drum major at St. Mary’s Dominican – was, “Baby, I can’t play.” He hadn’t picked up an instrument in years.”
But once he began helping, Conti coaxed him into bringing his tenor sax, saying, “You can run it with the kids, and you’ll do fine.”
Schof began to sharpen his musical skills as he helped the band. In 2006, he began playing alongside his grandchildren in Conti’s summertime Premiers band concert and then in the Jefferson Community Band.
Schof considers himself a teacher and has always found time to work with youth, calling them “creative and inquisitive.” When his children were younger, he coached Catholic Youth Organization sports in Mobile.
Today, he follows his grandchildren and has volunteered with Jesuit’s summer band camp (through which he was able to finally get his letterman jacket), helped reorganize the Christian Brothers band program in 2008 and continued to help for several years after.
He used his engineering background to give an hour-long NASA presentation, “Fresh Air System for Apollo,” at the elementary and high-school level.
He’s always felt he’s had a guiding hand from above that gave him confidence in every decision he’s made in life, whether it was a career or personal one.
“My faith is my route to heaven,” he said. “I’m happy because my faith allows me to do these things.”
Schof says he owes his musical beginnings to long-gone trumpeter George Gerard, who frequented his family’s bakery on Jefferson Highway near the St. Agnes Parish neighborhood in Old Jefferson where he grew up. Gerard had suggested to Dave Schof Sr. music lessons for Dave Jr. when he was in sixth grade. He started playing the alto saxophone.
When auditioning for the Jesuit band in eighth grade, he impressed then-director Salvatore Castigliola enough with his performance of “Ave Maria” and more than a dozen other songs that he was put in the first chair alto sax in the B band, and second chair in the A band as a freshman.
“I went from a goat to the king in a one-hour audition,” Schof laughed.
Schof loved the experience of playing in the Jesuit junior marching battalion and the marching band that practiced four to five days a week.
“When you played in concert, there was a certain amount of satisfaction and pride you got out of it,” he said.
His dream to have his own dance band materialized in his junior year with “The 7 Seniors.” His people skills steered Schof into being the band’s booking agent for paid gigs.
“They were the musicians, and I was the businessman,” he said, comparing his talent to his fellow band members.
Even though all of his five children – Sue, David, Doug, Sandra and Sheryl – took piano lessons, Schof said it’s his grandchildren to whom he’s passed the torch.
The family musical lineup is Douglas Schof, Jesuit sophomore clarinet player; Scarlett Abrams, Dominican sophomore clarinet player; Jared Abrams, Jesuit senior tenor sax; Kristina Krizan, Dominican sophomore clarinet player; Kenneth Krizan, Jesuit junior alto sax player; Bridget Adam, Dominican freshman, alto sax; Dominic Schof, drums, eighth grade, Jesuit; and Kristin Schof, senior, Dominican flute player and drum major.
Schof has given his original alto and tenor saxophones to two of his grandchildren and bought a few instruments for others.
He believes moving back in 2002 to New Orleans helped influence his grandchildren’s musical interest, often talking to them about playing music and giving them music lessons.
“I retired to be a full-time grandpa,” he said with a smile.
Over the past two years, he organized “PawPaw’s Band” with his grandchildren, using the Jesuit motto to serve others for the greater glory of God (A.M.D.G.) as an inspiration.
PawPaw’s Band has performed at two talent shows at St. Philip Neri Parish and played a Christmas concert in December for residents at Nouveau Marc Retirement Community in Kenner. He used the musical arrangement for “White Christmas” from his high school days.
“We (as a family) thought about it and said we should play music for somebody,” Schof said. “ I told them, ‘I want you to do it because you have been blessed with talent. God tells us to share our talents. You cannot image how valuable this will be to the older people (at Nouveau Marc). They will enjoy it. Some of these people will not (be alive to) celebrate Christmas next year.’”
Schof created a practice schedule for the Nouveau Marc concert and rounded out the band a few additional teens who played instruments none of his grandkids played: Kristin’s boyfriend Matthew Stephens, a Jesuit student, on trumpet; and Jared’s girlfriend Mallory de Lanzac, a Dominican student, on trombone.
They performed for more than an hour at Nouveau Marc, and their performance is on YouTube (search Dave Schof, where PawPaw’s Band playing at St. Philip Neri also can be found).
“The people loved it,” Schof said. “They applauded and asked when we can come back.”
He never dreamed music again would play such a prominent role in his life at his age.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Schof said about playing music alongside his grandkids. “This is the height of living.”