Beacock’s artistry, attitude resound

Musician’s students remember his lessons, teach a new generation

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



Did you know?

Dale Beacock was among the first 126 members named to the Washington Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 1998, along with Vancouver colleagues Jack Francis and Adair Hilligoss.

photoDale Beacock in a 2009 portrait.

(/The Columbian)

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Dale Beacock’s roles as musician, educator and businessman were celebrated Friday at Clark College by an overflow crowd of family, friends and former students.

His dad always loved a packed house, Russ Beacock said. And with people lined up along the walls of Gaiser Hall and clustered in open doorways, “He’d look around and say, ‘Standing-room only: Cool!’”

Even though the 81-year-old Beacock died Aug. 4 in a bicycling accident, his voice helped open the memorial service at Clark College.

As the closing notes of “Stars and Stripes Forever” faded, video screens in Gaiser Hall showed a 2008 oral history in which Beacock discussed facets of his career. It included a total of seven years in U.S. Army and Navy bands, when he played alongside musicians from big-name bands of the day.

“You practiced every day — or you shipped out,” he recalled. “And it happened fast. I was motivated to practice.”

After leaving the service, Beacock taught in local schools. In his first year in 1956, Beacock said, he was able to negotiate his $3,700 contract up to $3,850. That’s for a year, he noted. He spent 15 years as band director at Clark College before retiring to focus on the family business.

“We started with clarinet lessons,” Beacock said in the videotaped interview. “Then we sold reeds. When we sold one reed, we could buy two reeds. Then we sold books. I would call home and say, ‘I just sold a book for $6.95!’”

But it was Beacock’s family and friends who spent almost two hours describing his impact as a father, a teacher or a role model. And sometimes, those roles overlapped.

Gayle Beacock recalled her start as a young musician, when she was in the third grade. She told her folks she wanted to play the flute.

“The next day, on my bed, there was a flute and a collection of records,” said Gayle, now co-owner of Beacock Music with her brother Russ.

Her dad, of course, was her first teacher.

“He said, ‘No wimpy flute tone. My reputation is on the line,’” Gayle Beacock recalled.

A couple of Beacock’s former students told how he shaped their careers as music educators. Al Aldridge played in Beacock’s band at Fort Vancouver High School … and he was not a star. He was the fourth tenor sax player in the section. Still, Beacock tapped Aldridge for a solo when the band played for a music educators’ convention in the Seattle Opera House.

“I was scared,” said Aldridge, who had a long career as the Prairie band teacher and also coached the Falcon girls basketball team to five state championships.

“He said, ‘You’ll be great, and the audience will love it.’ I did a pretty good job,” Aldridge said, and Beacock’s face lit up. “He believed in me.”

Beacock also believed in music. After he was named to the Washington Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 1998, Beacock told The Columbian about one visit to a school music teacher.

He happened to glance at a student’s report card on the teacher’s desk.

“The student had 30 absences in one class, 40 absences in another. In orchestra, she had two absences,” Beacock said in the 1998 interview. “Who knows what motivated her? But there was something about music that touched her.”

Beacock died at about 11:50 a.m. on Aug. 4 during a bicycle trip with his son Russ on Oregon’s Highway 101. His bike swerved into the southbound lane and was struck by the trailer of a loaded log truck, according to the Oregon State Police.

“He was having a great time,” Russ Beacock said Friday. “At breakfast, he had me on my GPS, mapping our route for next year. He was where he wanted to be.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or