NATCHITOCHES – Family and friends of the late Bill Causey have created a scholarship for jazz musicians at Northwestern State University. Causey, well-known in the music community as a performer, teacher, mentor and owner of The Band House, a store for band and music supplies, was influential to many musicians and music educators in the region. He passed away Feb. 28.
According to Galindo Rodriguez, associate professor of music and director of NSU’s jazz ensembles, Causey was active as a performer until his final days, leading the popular Bill Causey Orchestra, an ensemble with a 40+ year history, at regular casino gigs in Shreveport and Bossier City.
“His influence would start with music teachers,” Rodriguez said. “He was the type of person who could go into a band room and coach the ensembles and coach the students and perform with them. He was founder of the Shreveport All-City Band in the 1970s. It was well-known because the students in the group would compose their own pieces. There was quite a bit of talent in that group.”
Rodriguez said Causey was so well-known, he was often the first-call contractor for shows coming to Shreveport/Bossier over the years.
“All the shows at the casinos, traveling shows like The Temptations and those playing in the area, would contact him first to find and hire the musicians and he would bring people in from Dallas, New Orleans or New York,” Rodriguez said. “He was also very involved in the Louisiana Association for Jazz Education and contributed to LAJE over the years financially, as a performer and as a musical coach. He had his hands in about 10 different pies all the time.”
Causey was born in 1943 in Natchitoches but grew up in Shreveport where his father, Billie Pate Causey Sr., was band director of Centenary College. Causey graduated from C.E. Byrd High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s in business administration from Centenary. From his college days through his early career he was a photographer for the Shreveport Journal. He was the band director at Captain Shreve High School in the 1970s and 80s and, after retirement, started working at The Band House music store. Eventually he took over ownership of the store, growing the business to open two additional locations in Texarkana and Wiley, Texas.
Though Causey was raised as a classical trumpet player, his passion in music was big band jazz. Among numerous other honors, he is a member of the Louisiana Jazz Hall of Fame.
Though music was a driving force in his life, his greatest joy was spending time with his grandchildren.
Rodriguez, with the Causey family’s approval, initiated the jazz scholarship that will be open to music majors at any level of study. He also organized a concert tribute that featured both NSU students and professional musicians performing special selections, including a piece Rodriguez commissioned especially in Causey’s memory. Composer/musician Gary Halquist completed the original song, titled “Quiet Remembrances, Remembering Bill Causey,” in just a week and debuted it at the tribute concert.
“Gary Halquist was one of Bill’s former students,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been composing and arranging pieces for the Causey Orchestra for 40 years, so there was a very close relationship.
“Bill’s whole contribution was to assist music educators in the public schools,” Rodriguez said. “He was very influential and financially supported numerous music programs and jazz ensembles.”
Rodriguez hopes the scholarship will reach its full endowment of $10,000. To contribute to the scholarship, visit northwesternalumni.com.