William Frederick Grahn passed away on Thursday, October 5 after a brief stay at Oakwood East in Madison, WI.
Bill was the first of three sons born to William F. Grahn, Sr. and Jessie Margaret Teresa Grahn (Duve) on May 7, 1935. Bill grew up on Madison’s East side, attending Lowell Elementary, East Junior High and graduated from Madison West High School in 1953. Bill graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from UW-Madison in 1960 and 1968.
Bill married Georgia Ann Muenzenberger of La Crosse, WI on September 29, 1961, in Rockford, IL. To this marriage were born David Christopher, Diana Christine, and William Matthew.
Bill served in the 6th Army Band at Fort Ord, CA in 1957-1958 and the 32nd Division Band at Fort Lewis, WA during the 1961-1962 Berlin Crisis Active-Duty Call-up.
He was also an employee at Oscar Mayer from 1953-1961 during his college and military service days. He taught music in the Belleville, WI school system from 1962 – 1983 as well as the Madison public schools summer music enrichment program at West high school and maintained a private lesson home studio from 1965 – 2010.
Bill was a member of the Doc DeHaven Pirate Ship groups from 1967 – 2003 when Doc retired from playing. Bill was an original member of the Madison Jazz Orchestra directed by bassist Dennis Oliver from 1989 – 2010 and the MATC Jeff Peronto Jazz Orchestra from 2008 – 2015.
Bill played clarinet and saxophones with the Rand Moore Jazz Quartet from 2011 – 2017 with Paul Muench and John Schaffer and Rand. Bill also enjoyed performing with the Retro Swing Band, Gerry Stich groups and UW-Music Professor Jim Latimer and Friends and the Capital City Band as well as Paul Heinecke’s All That Jazz groups in the Madison area.
Bill was fluent on all the wind instruments, including soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax, flute, and clarinet. He was one of the area's best improvisors and his reading ability was in demand for shows, big band dates, and orchestra calls. He also was a past recipient of the Isthmus Jazz Festival Madison Jazz Personality of The Year award in 1994.
In January 2018, Bill resigned from the Local 166 American Federation of Musicians to give his instruments some peace and quiet.
Son Bill always enjoyed the opportunity to go see his dads 3-piece combo playing at the old Dotty Dumplings location tucked away in the loft area when he was attending UW-Madison, not only to see his dad, but to also take advantage of the food provided to the band. Also, to be remembered and missed were the Thursday nights after playing softball/soccer to go see dad with the big brass band playing at Rusty’s in Middleton, have a burger and a beer with him and listen to all the post-performance band banter. Playing was his passion and he was so alive in those moments. He truly loved what he did.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents and wife, Georgia Ann (2018) as well as stepsister Anna Belle Georgia Cummins, stepbrothers Frank and Jerome Cummins, stepbrother Ervin Grahn, younger brothers Rev. Richard Grahn (2018) and nephew Roger Cummins (1976) and sister Nina (Leroy) Kroger (2020).
Bill is survived by daughter Diana Christine, sons David Christopher and William Matthew, grandchildren Jaime, Alex and Claire, nieces Carol Cummins and Karen Treblehorn, brother David (Pat), and sister-in-law Sonja Grahn.
A special thanks to the staff at Oakwood East and Agrace Hospice for their attentive care and communication during Bills last days for making things comfortable for all of us. It will be forever appreciated.
In his honor, go out and watch and appreciate live music or pay attention to a street performer and tip them what you can. Pick up that musical instrument that’s collecting dust in the corner of your home and re-introduce yourself to it. Passionate musicians work incredibly hard and can have hectic schedules; we all owe them gratitude for their services and skills. Practice patience – dad went through a lot in his lifetime, always kept a level head and was never angry. We could all be more like that. Our dad spent his entire life enriching the lives of others with his playing and teaching and we’re all better off for it. Thanks dad, we will miss you. Enjoy Wrigley Field all you want now and all the other places that you’ve dreamed of going with mom. Go out and enjoy any game you want and not have to worry about the half-time band performance. Good-bye for now and we’ll see you in a while. And one last time, that Greg Luzinski bat that you brought home for the family was way too big and heavy for us, but we’ll always cherish it.
A celebration of life will take place at Cress Funerial Home, 6021 University Ave., Madison, WI on Friday October 13, 2023 from 2pm – 4pm