Friday, November 20, 2015

Music man, Dr. Bob Chabora, to be honored at memorial service - By Walter Lunt

Music man, Dr. Bob Chabora, to be honored at memorial service and celebration of life in Windham
“The sound of Bob’s (piano) music ringing the down the hallways at Jordan Small and Windham Middle schools was the best way for teachers and students to start the day.”       Morgan Riley-music teacher

The Windham and Raymond communities fell into shock and sadness last spring with the news that middle school music teacher Dr. Bob Chabora had fallen ill and would likely be unable to return to his classrooms at Jordan Small and Windham Middle schools. The popular and highly innovative teacher passed away on September 19, age 68, in what would have been his third year in the RSU14 system. He will be remembered and honored at a memorial service and celebration of life on November 22 at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, where he was music director and organist. Hundreds are expected to attend.

Dr. Bob’s wife, Pam reflected on her husband’s life and legacy.

“Wherever he’s gone he’s built an empire. He taught half-time here for only two years but in that short time brought so much to the middle school music program,” she said. “Despite his grumblings about how loud and talkative (his students) were at times, he absolutely adored them.”

Chabora taught general music and choir at both schools in the RSU14 district. He created the first Windham Middle School Chamber Singers and was known for going the extra distance for his students, as well as engaging in extensive extracurricular work.

“He touched the kids’ lives in a way like a grandfather,” said Suzi Bradford, whose daughters Maggie and Savana were students of Chabora.

“He was really happy all the time and encouraged and appreciated all his students,” said Maggie.
Savana observed, “He would always give us extra time during his breaks or after school. The students came first.”

Reese, a seventh grade piano student described Chabora. “He has made me like music in creative ways, of doing older style music…classical, not a pop song on the radio. I love the little things, like saying hello in the hallway and having a smile on his face.”

Colleague Morgan Riley called Chabora a class act. “He treated all…with respect and had an unwavering belief in the ability and potential of his students.” And on the day she had to break the bad news to the students, “One eighth grade girl started to tear up and said to me, ‘Dr. Bob taught me so much more than (just) how to play the piano’.”

Another student shared an anecdote that may be the highest praise for Dr. Bob. It seems Dr. Rick Nickerson, Chabora’s counterpart at the high school, stepped in briefly to teach Chabora’s classes. Nickerson, seated at a piano, told the class, “You may hear something you never heard with Dr. Bob. Mistakes.”

Jordan Small principal Randy Crockett, referred to Chabora as the ultimate professional. He recalled the way Dr. Bob confronted an early challenge in his teaching.

“Bob’s experience as a guitar teacher was limited. To improve…he started attending Mrs. Riley’s class right along with the students…on his day off. There is no better example of a life-long learner for students than someone with a doctorate sitting next to them in class listening attentively to learn a new skill.”

Rev. Tim Higgins of St. Ann’s Church called Chabora a pied piper. “The choir tripled in number and brought them to new levels of expertise.”

Wife Pam said overwhelming numbers of calls, cards, letters and online condolences flooded in immediately after her husband’s death. One weekend, Principal Crockett and several of Chabora’s students showed up at her home in Raymond to lug and stack her firewood for the winter.

Chabora had retired as a professional musician and college professor before bringing his artistry and inspiration to RSU14. For over 10 years he taught courses and was chair of the music department at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota where he oversaw 46 music faculty. In addition, he was a composer, author and sketch artist. Chabora was involved in several Broadway musicals, wrote many biographies for encyclopedias and authored a book on the life and music of classical pianist Malcolm Frager, which will be the basis of a PBS documentary in late 2016.

After moving to Maine, Chabora became the musical director for Windham Center Stage, where he worked with Pam, herself a theater professor and performer, on the musical productions of Legally Blond and Grease.

Said Raymond parent Bradford, “Considering how high caliber he was, he took a step back to teach our kids (and) I think they realize how lucky they were.”

The memorial and celebration of life for Dr. Robert “Bob” Chabora will be held on Sunday, November 22 at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham at 2 p.m. Middle School choir students will perform two selections from Dr. Bob’s classes, and recordings of his original compositions will be played. Son, Ethan, will also present a video compilation of his dad’s various performances.

The family has said Facebook RSVPs would be helpful, but not necessary. Everyone is invited to attend.
The day will be bittersweet for Pam Chabora. November 22 would be her and Bob’s 37th wedding anniversary.

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