Robert Bell                           Inducted 2000 - Class of 1956

A 1990 Toledo Blade article described Bob Bell in the following way: “His is a life lived in and shaped by MUSIC, a symphony with three themes ...performance, teaching, and administration, in which decades develop into movements. “It is Bob's stellar achievements in these three "themes" that qualify him for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Bob was born in Oakwood, Ohio, near Defiance. He grew up in South Toledo and attended Burroughs School and Harvard Jr. High. His family moved to North Toledo just prior to his starting high school. Bob lived near Elm and Austin Streets. His first job was working at the Variety Super Market, but he found time to be involved in a variety of school activities. Bob took on various non-playing duties with the Woodward Band, such as stage assistance, helping with productions, and being supportive to Sam Szor. "These were important experiences that helped prepare me for my future career."

While looking through the 1956 Woodward Yearbook, Bob was reminded of the significant impact that Woodward had on him. "The Saga dedication in the1956 yearbook was a most fitting tribute to the two teachers who were responsible for introducing me to music: Sam Szor and Edgar Sorton. The dedication inscription recognized these individuals as people 'whose many years of service have left an indelible mark on the Music Department of Woodward High School.” Early in my freshman year, Edgar Sorton, the orchestra director and a violist in The Toledo Symphony, first provided me with the opportunity to participate in the orchestra and eventually arranged for me to begin lessons with a member of The Toledo Symphony. Shortly thereafter, Sam Szor, in his first year as Band Director, invited me to join the band. These were pivotal events that set the stage for my lifelong career in the music profession. Actually, Sam was the single most powerful influence on my life during a particularly impressionable time of growing up. He helped nurture the passion for musical discovery and the confidence in my ability that was to be so essential to my future. It is highly likely that there are many others who benefited from his mentoring and influence. It all started at Woodward High School." It was also in the band where Bob met Carol Hollabaugh, who was to become the mother of his daughters, Lynn and Suzanne.

Bob also fondly remembers other WHS teachers: Howard Phipps, who taught History; Science teacher George Roherer, who also played bassoon in The Toledo Symphony; and Chemistry teacher Chales Staneart.

After leaving Woodward, Bob studied at the University of Toledo, Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Michigan. His lifelong involvement in the field of music has been in various capacities. As a musician, Bob performed in the Toledo Youth Orchestra; Shakespeare Under the Stars at Antioch College(1956-1957); Deutsch Opera and Bavarian State Opera in Berlin (1964); Ypsilanti Greek Theater (1964-1965); and Toledo Symphony Principal Timpanist (1957-1984).Over the years, he has done extensive regional free-lance performing and teaching. Bob also served as Adjunct Instructor and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Toledo from 1960 to 1984.

Bob has 40 years of experience in administration and management. He was Personnel Manager for the Toledo Opera from 1960 to 1970. His association with The Toledo Symphony Orchestra began in 1957 as a musician. He became Managing Director in 1984, after gaining a foothold on nearly every step of the organizational ladder, each with a greater amount of responsibility. Bob was Librarian/Stage Manager (1965-1968); Personnel Manager (1968-1984); Acting Managing Director (1975); and Associate Director (1976). In 1997, Bob was named President and CEO. He is responsible for the management and direction of the orchestra and oversees an annual budget of $4.3 million. The orchestra presents over 500 orchestra and ensemble performances each year. Bob is challenged with maintaining the critical balance between artistic quality and fiscal responsibility.

In the various positions Bob held with The Toledo Symphony Orchestra, he has seen it grow. In a 1984 article in The Toledo Blade, Bob Bell Loves His Job, Bob spoke of his mission: "the achievement of greater visibility of the Orchestra and greater exposure. The Orchestra is ready for it and so is the public . . . we need to get them together." Bob's enthusiasm and love for the Orchestra was viewed as contagious. In 1990, another Blade article, A Conversation With . . . Bob Bell, reported how far the Orchestra had come. Bob believes that the Orchestra dominates the city's culture. "I think they are a group of professional people who make a profound contribution to the quality of life . . . Values have changed in the last 20 years, but the Orchestra has remained steady as an institution. That's the most exciting part, to know people's response to it. That's what it's all for."

Bob Bell has acted on his belief that the community will support a quality orchestra to meet its need for enrichment and education. He is credited with a long list of accomplishments, too numerous to mention, in the area of artistic developments, financial and fundraising and administration. Highlights include creating new audiences by initiating neighborhood orchestral concert programs; inaugurating modern music series (Music of Today) featuring world premieres attracting national attention; implementing Symphony-managed education/teaching programs for minority and target population areas; increasing income from $1.4 million in1984 to $4.3 million today; implementing an endowment drive, which has generated $6 million in cash and pledges; controlling administrative expenses; increasing annual fund giving; negotiating labor agreements providing unique provisions for use of musical services; restructuring the Board of Trustees to create advisory capacity, expand the committee structure and include the region's top executive leadership, philanthropists and professionals.

Bob has strong community ties and has given back to the community. He has served on the Executive Board of Directors for Substance Abuse Services (1988-1994);is on the Board of Directors for the Toledo Fire Museum and Corporation for Effective Government; is Civilian Advisor for the Toledo Fire Academy; Public Trustee for the Toledo Fire Fighter Health Plan: was on the Board of Directors for the Toledo Arts Commission (1978-1986); Recommendation Board for both the Elise L. Stoeger Prize (1992) and Avery Fisher Artist Program (1991). He is a member of the Toledo Rotary and serves on the Membership Committee.

The Toledo Arts Commission presented Bob with the Community Impact Award in 1986. In 1994, he received the Mayor of Toledo's Citizen Award. Bob was recognized for his work in arts when he received the State of Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1994. Ohio State Representative Tim Greenwood nominated him for this honor. In doing so, he stated that "it takes a special kind of person to demonstrate how the Symphony can become important to our overall quality of life and then convince community leaders as to how these programs can be implemented. Bob Bell has worked quietly, tirelessly and effectively to make these treasures of music available to all of us in Northwest Ohio."

Although Bob is unable to be with us tonight, he has extended his thanks to all involved in the Hall of Fame nomination process and requests that we deliver this message: "It is my hope that you will extend my congratulations to the other nominees and express to them my sense of pride, honor and appreciation in sharing this recognition with them."

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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