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Posted on: 11/26/2012

I wish to list composer/conductor VACLAV NELHYBEL as my mentor for a 29 year period.  From 1967 onward, he  took me on as a special son, I think partially because I was a 3rd generation Czech-American.  At that time while in his conducting class at Bemidji State University, he took me aside and informed me that I was a composer.  I was shocked for I didn't know it!  He was firm with me for he saw something in me that I did not realize, he opened a door, and we then proceeded forth on an incredible 29 year journey.

This journey included 3 performances of my Nathan Hale High School Band at the Mid-West Clinic in the years of 1969, 1974, and 1979.  At each of these concerts he guest-conducted one of his compositions and something also from my pen appeared.  We operated together during this era until his death in 1996, in many different fashions, from National Public Radio features, to summer music camps, to joint presentors at seminars and state music conventions, etc.  He has been a guest in my home many times and I also was his house guest.  He mentored me also of the musical treasures in the Archives of his native Czech land where I was allowed as a Czech-American to study, but Vaclav, as a refugee was not allowed back into his country until 1989.  I was his agent there during the 1970-80 era and made many contacts for him.  Now as a result, I have been to his native Czech land at least 58 times, taking leadership in many roles, setting up music festivals and rendering to the schools of that nation, educational concepts that have proven themselves here in American schools.  The many rewards I have received from Czech musical society, including the title from The Prague Conservatory in 2005 as "Mr. Czech Music of USA," are also a reflection and a tribute to Maestro Nelhybel.  He opened the door, and all I had to do was to follow my heart.  Furthermore, the dedication Mr. Nelhybel gave to American Music Education during his sterling career, I am pleased to assume a similiar posture in his native Czech Republic and by the means of co- founding Alliance Publications, Inc, a music publishing company, we feature over 100 Czechoslovak composers with many of them his colleagues from his youth, serves as a mirror of a great Czech patriot, Vaclav Nelhybel.

My recollections in terms of countless stories of my times and sharing with Maestro Nelhybel and the wonderful resource of personal letters from him, I have given this inventory to Colonel Vaclav Blahunek, PhD who continues this crusade of Nelhybel in the Czech Republic.  I pen this reflection today from Prague in the building where Vaclav attended the Bishop's School in his preperation for the priesthood, but now is the home of the Prague Castle Guard Band, the Czech President's "Own", Maestro Vaclav Blahunek as Chief Conductor.  It has been an incredible journey!  Vaclav Nelhybel smiles!

Tribute submitted by: 
Joel Blahnik