Bill Ewing was born July 11, 1926, in West Frankfort, Illinois. He started school in Chicago, Illinois, and shortly thereafter, moved back to West Frankfort. After another short period, Bill moved to Mounds, Illinois, where he completed his elementary and high school years.
Bill’s early musical training began with his family who had a country music band. At age 7, Bill started on mandolin, banjo, guitar and fiddle and soon joined the family band. Since this was during The Great Depression, the band had a difficult time making ends meet, sometimes playing for nothing or only a meal.
Mr. Ewing’s formal training began at age 12 in Mounds under the guidance of Ethel Miller. He started playing woodwind instruments. Because of his early experience with country music, Bill developed a good listening ability and musical ear. After taking up woodwinds, he transferred this listening ability to the Jazz idiom. Bill “learned the trade” listening to old recordings and copying solos. One of Bill’s classic statements is “I never read well enough to hurt my playing.”
After high school, Mr. Ewing entered service and served first in the infantry. After trying several times, he was finally transferred to the 90th Guard Force Band stationed at Camp Robinson, Little Rock, Arkansas. Later he was transferred to the 256th Guard Force Band stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was discharged as 1st Sargent of the 256th Band in 1946. A highlight of Mr. Ewing’s service career in music was playing with Billy Butterfield of Artie Shaw-Paul Whiteman fame.
After serving his country, Bill returned to Cape Girardeau and attended Southeast Missouri State University, from which he received his Bachelor of Science in Education in 1950, and started his teaching career. Mr. Ewing taught one year at Hayti and one year at Ste. Genevieve before accepting a position in 1952 at Cape Girardeau. Bill taught elementary band from 1952 until 1954, Junior High band from 1954 until 1964, and was the Central High School band director form 1964 until 1978. He also was director at L.J. Schultz Middle School where he helped institute a new and effective beginning program.
During Mr. Ewing’s career he enjoyed many “1” ratings with the high school Concert Band and developed a Jazz program which was highlighted by the 1971 Jazz Ban European Tour. Bill was instrumental in the building of the new music department and participated over the years in curriculum development.
Mr. Ewing served as an adjudicator for contests in Missouri and surrounding states for many years. He served on the National Advisory Board for the Leblanc Instrument Company. Locally, he spent many years on the Cerebral Palsy Board and was their musical director for the telethon. Bill was a member of the Cape Girardeau Municipal Band, directed the choir at Centenary Methodist Church, and participated as a musician at Cape Riverfest. He also helped establish the Phil Cloud-Rick Samuelson Memorial Scholarship Award.
Bill married Billie in December 1946, and they have one daughter, Amy, and three grandchildren: Emily, Kara, and Nora.