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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2008

Jazz orchestra's former director taught at BGSU

PORT CLINTON - David Melle, 66, a musician and former director of the Toledo Jazz Orchestra who was lauded as an educator, died Monday at home in Ottawa County's Catawba Island Township of complications from cancer.

He played saxophone, clarinet, and flute, and was a member of the jazz orchestra from its early 1980s start until about four years ago. He directed the group early on, and from the late 1990s until 2003.

"The love of music was what he was really about," said Scott Potter, a trumpeter in the orchestra and one of Mr. Melle's students during the early '70s at Bowling Green State University. "A lot of people who go to the [jazz orchestra's] concerts are Dave Melle fans."

From 1967 to 1995, Mr. Melle was a professor of performance studies in the BGSU college of musical arts. Students who went on to greater jazz renown include trumpeter Tim Hagans, saxophonist Rich Perry, and bassist Tom Warrington, Mr. Potter said. The strength of his jazz-lab bands attracted Mr. Potter to the program. He liked to nurture the students, Mr. Potter said, and "took great delight in their successes."

At BGSU, Mr. Melle gave private flute and clarinet lessons and was in a faculty woodwind quintet that toured Europe.

Mr. Melle was well regarded as an arranger of music for jazz orchestra or jazz vocal groups.

"He was a giant of a man," said Kim Buehler, a singer and executive director of the Toledo Jazz Society. "He was tall. His hands and his voice, his character [were] just big. He was gregarious. He could get stern when he needed to. He had a clear vision of what he wanted. I think everyone had great respect for him because of that."

He grew up in South Toledo and was a graduate of Central Catholic High School, BGSU, and the University of Iowa.

By age 13, he was playing gigs around town. He became a teacher, his wife, Janey, said, because "he wanted stability in his life. He didn't want to spend it on the road. He wanted a family and a home and security."

He played in the orchestras of touring Broadway musicals and circuses and ice shows that passed through.

Surviving are his wife, Janey, whom he married Aug. 18, 1962; daughters, Bonnie Fraylick and Cheryl Melle; brother, Phillip; sisters, Patricia Uerkwitz and Marilyn Kline, and three grandsons.

Memorial services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in the Neidecker, LeVeck & Crosser Funeral Home, Port Clinton, where visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to Stein Hospice, Sandusky.



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