First person: Music major part of vet’s life

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Bill Case has played music around the world. His clarinet and saxophone, and the Air Force Band, have taken him to Japan, Greenland, Vietnam, the Philippines and several cities in the U.S. The Clovis business owner will be playing with the Clovis Community Band during its 16th Annual John Philip Sousa Concert at 7:30 p.m. today at the Lyceum Theatre.

How long have you been playing the clarinet? The saxophone?
It’s been about 70 years. I was 8 years old when I started playing the clarinet and joined the Air Force at 17, right out of high school. Playing solo clarinet gave me an in to the Air Force Band. Not many played the clarinet. I picked up the saxophone because we all had to play two instruments. I’d pick up the sax for rock ‘n’ roll or whatever it would go with.

What was the first song you remember playing on the clarinet?
It was “Indian Love Call.” My mother gave me 10 cents to learn it. And I said, “I’ll do it, Mom,” and she just loved it.

What one show was most memorable for you?
I’m from Tulsa, Okla., and they asked me to come play there. All the big bands had played there. When I played in my own town, I had goosebumps and shakes but a minute later I was OK. It was the most exciting, definitely, going back home.

What is your favorite thing about being in a band?
I guess it’s like what my wife says, “You just like the attention.” I like to see the people happy and smiling. If they were mad or angry, I’d want to walk out. And of course, I like to play.

Do you think playing music is an important part of the Air Force?
Well, everything is important. When you are a musician in the Air Force, you are always going to different places. It’s a hard life. I was playing music instead of fighting a war. I think I’m lucky to be alive. See, I’ve had three heart attacks. My doc said playing the horn probably kept me a live.

Do you prefer playing in a big band or a small combo?
That’s a weird question for me to answer. Right now, at my age, it’s awful hard to keep 14 pieces together. It’s easier as a combo. If I get a call for a show, I only have to call up two people. But I prefer playing in a big band naturally. It’s just more music. Music’s been my life. I’d rather play than eat dinner.