I'm not kidding when I say this: I would guess that at least 65% of Billy Wolfe's conversations turn to harmony. Not Dalai Lama or field full of sunflowers sort of harmony, but the nuts and bolts of music sort of harmony. Billy, in and of himself, is a minor ii-V in all 12 keys. I most recently had a chance to spend some time with him at a friend's wedding and really enjoyed seeing him again, in every key.
He is a gem.
Billy Wolfe has always been an idol of mine and for good reasons. I first met Billy when I started as a freshman at Capital University in the fall of 2003. He and I clicked immediately. From the moment I first heard him, I was dumbfounded by his playing. It gives me the shakes. I remember following him late one night after a "jazz in the cru-club" asking about how he got to be so great. In that first meeting I received the definition of Billy Wolfe. First, he told me that he practiced as much as he possibly could and that it didn't come easily to him. Secondly, he told me that he really liked my playing too and asked me what I was working on. I tried to act really cool, but on the inside I was losing it.
The next day, I hit the practice rooms early. I played through the Wolfe-recommended Omnibook all morning. Because he was always practicing, it didn't take long for Billy to overhear me and stop by my room to give me a "yeah, guy!" Every meeting with him is a "yeah, guy!" Billy is the best saxophone player that I know, but even greater than his playing, is his desire to share his love of music with anyone who happens to be nearby. I try to be nearby whenever I get the chance.
As educators, we have to strive to be more like Billy Wolfe. He's the sort of teacher that seems to get behind something in everyone he meets. He's enthusiastic about growth and finds it in every nook and cranny. If you meet Billy, you're instantly his student for life. He recognizes a very important part of being an educator and a musician: that each of us has something very special to offer just as we are. When Billy hears me play, he doesn't hear the pathetic squeals of someone he has conquered (and believe me, he has), but instead hears a uniqueness in my playing that he can encourage and even learn from. We all have a lot to learn and I think Billy helps us to see that education comes from all directions and in all shapes and sizes. Billy is a great teacher because he sees through the eyes of a diligent and disciplined student looking for growth like a starving wolf(e) on the prowl. I'm proud to know him and if you don't know him, now you will.