KENNEWICK -- The death of Tri-City music man Don Paul has saddened many in town.
His contributions to the area's music scene began more than three decades ago, when he moved here to be the music director at Kennewick High School.
"Don was a man of gentle humor and immense musicianship," said former student Bruce Brown. "I simply loved the man. All his students did. He had that kind of effect on you."
Brown, who lives in Yakima, was one of hundreds of students Paul taught during his more than 30 years as a Tri-Cities music educator -- 12 years at Kennewick High and another 20 years at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.
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One of the first things Paul did after moving to CBC in 1973 was to organize the Jazz Unlimited Festival, which still is an annual at the school. A dark cloud of sadness hung over this year's event because Paul, 79, died April 16, during the weekend of the festival.
"Don will be so missed in our musical community," said Bill McKay, dean of arts and humanities at CBC. "We all relied on his opinions, his history, and he was a mentor to us all.
"We are all much stronger, as musicians and as people, from having the chance to interact with him. I can't think of a single group in town that he did not touch in some way."
It wasn't just that Paul knew how to instill a love of music in his students. He inspired them with an appreciation for music that never ebbed with time.
No one knew that more than Randy Hubbs, associate professor of music at CBC.
"I had the privilege of knowing Don on a variety of levels," Hubbs said. "He was my teacher, co-worker, fellow musician, mentor and above all, my friend."
Paul was inducted into the Washington Music Educators Association's Hall of Fame in 2008. He also helped found the Mid-Columbia Brass Quintet.
In addition to the jazz festival, Paul also organized the Columbia Basin Concert Band more than 30 years ago.
Ted Neth, former dean of humanities at CBC and professor emeritus, credits Paul with enriching CBC's music department.
"Don was instrumental in numerous facets of out instructional programs at CBC," Neth said. "He came to us from Kennewick High at a time when we had lost two-thirds of the music faculty and subsequently laid the foundation for what the department is today."
For Hubbs, Paul's influence lingered long after he retired in 1993, and he continued to occasionally play with the concert band he started.
"Don had a profound influence on countless individuals," Hubbs said. "He was truly one of the finest music educators I have ever known."
McKay, however, said that even though the quiet humor and enormous musical presence of Paul is gone, "We will keep his legacy alive."
Paul and his wife, Jan, were married 54 years, and they had two sons.
A short Vespers service for Paul will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the First Lutheran Church in downtown Kennewick.
A celebration of his life will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. May 1 at Einan's Memories at Sunset Event Center, 915 bypass highway in Richland.
* Dori O'Neal: 509-582-1514; email@example.com