Howard A. Robbins 1918-2011
HOWARD (HOWIE) AMOS ROBBINS, Founder and Director of the award-winning Spokane Percussion Naut Patriots passed away in San Diego, California on April 3, 2011 at the age of 92.
Howie was born to Amos Lee and Eva Dolores Robbins in San Bernardino , California joining an older brother, Lee, at home.
His younger years were spent in the San Diego area where he began his long musical career at the age of 8 when he and his brother were invited to join the Salvation Army Band there with a promise of a free instrument and free lessons.
At age 16 he was a member of the Portland Junior Symphony and received a full musical scholarship to Hill Military Academy . He was a member of the R.O.T.C . program from 1933 thru 1936 and was a member of the ‘Hill Cadet Band’. He received many local and state championship awards for rudimental drumming and graduated from Hill Military Academy in 1936.
He attended Ellison-White Conservatory for a double masters course studying Classical Percussion/International Repertoire and Interpretation.
At the age of 19 at the time he was playing for the Portland Symphony he was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration and was declared legally blind.
In 1937 Howie joined the Oregon National Guard 162nd Infantry Band and served as a Percussion Instructor with that organization until April 1940 when he received an honorable discharge from the service.
Howie played in many three piece trios throughout the Portland and surrounding areas, all the while, his reputation as an outstanding and talented drummer was growing. One day he received a call from The Ben Pollock Band in Los Angeles inviting him to join their band.
Shortly thereafter, he moved to Hollywood. He had several small musical parts in ‘teen movies’ of that day. In ‘The Andy Hardy’ movies starring Mickey Rooney, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, and ‘Henry Aldrich Swings It’.
For the next several years he played for several bands including, The NBC Studio for the ‘Bob Hope Show’, Red Nichols and the Five Pennies, The Stan Kenton Orchestra, Stan Getz, Ken Baker, Wingy Manone and the Johnny Richards Band to name a few.
In 1943 he married his wife, Helen Wiltsie and in 1949 they welcomed their daughter Patricia Lee.
After the war Howie joined a 6 piece Dixieland Band under the direction of Red Thompson and traveled for 7 months on a USO Tour to the Orient, Hawaiian Islands, the Philippines and the islands of Japan .
He was a member of the ‘Dixieland house band’ at the Circus Room in Spokane . At that time, after being asked by several of his customers to give their children private drum lessons, he opened the ‘Northwest Academy of Percussion’ teaching over 70 students per week from his studio in their Millwood area home.
Howie went on to form his own group, ‘The Notables’ a musical, comedy group that played throughout the Pacific Northwest.
In 1961 he formed the Percussion-Naut Patriots Drum & Bugle Corps starting with a group of 7 youth which grew to span over 30 years influencing and mentoring thousands of youth, teaching high standards and values that each corps member strived to achieve. The corps traveled and performed in the U.S. , England , Belgium , Switzerland , Germany , France and Holland . In 1974, the Percussion-Nauts were asked to present “Colors” at the Expo ’74 World’s Fair Ground Breaking Ceremony, with the Colonial Fife and Drum Corps performing over 60 times during the fair; and subsequently performed for President Nixon and President Gerald Ford. The Corps was regularly invited to perform at Edmonton ’s Klondike Days and the Calgary Stampede. Howie recently received awards from former Washington Governor Daniel J. Evans and current Spokane Mayor Mary B. Verner for the tremendous contributions he made to the youth of Spokane and the State of Washington .
In 1963 Howie received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Whitworth College in Spokane with his major in Music Education and minor in Psychology. He then taught at the University of Idaho – Music School as their Percussion Instructor for three years.
He retired in Coeur d’Alene where he spent the warm months enjoying the outdoor activities he loved so much and then traveling to ‘warmer climates’ for the winter months. Howie enjoyed his Music, History of the American Revolution and the Civil War and was a Civil War Reenactor. He loved biking, sailing, giving private drum lessons, everything ‘American’ and ‘Patriotic’, his family and friends.
Howie is predeceased by his wife and daughter and is survived by his brother, Lee W. Robbins, age 94 of Vancouver, Wa., three nieces, Eileen Stewart and her husband Charles of Scappoose, Oregon , Pam Rice and her husband Hank of Vancouver, Wa. and Peggy Butler of Salt Lake City , Utah and their families. He is also survived by two cousins, Kathleen and Rosemary Ross and several cousins in Texas . He is survived by his ‘family’ in Coeur d’Alene , Alana and Darryl Anderson, John and Vivian Finney, Michael DePasquale, and Randy and Ruth Smith.
A ‘Celebration of Life’ Service will be held in Howie’s honor on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 at 2:00 P.M., at Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church, 312 W. Hawthorne Road, Spokane, Washington. A reception will follow.
A private family internment service will be held at the Pines Cemetery in Spokane Valley .
Family suggests Memorial Contributions can be made in Howie Robbin’s name to ‘The Spokane Thunder Drum and Bugle Corps.’