I’m deeply gutted by the passing of Bill Westcott. He was an unknown musical giant, perhaps the finest I ever knew.
He was a mentor and my theory classes with him were a sacred privilege. As I sit here right now composing for a 120 piece orchestra for a special 4 day “SteveVai Festival” In Holland with the North Netherlands Orchestra, for this October, every note I write has Bill’s signature on it. He taught me how to write, compose and appreciate music. “There was no greater musical influence in my life.” I’ve mentioned this in countless interviews around the world. I’m sure there are many who feel this way. He was a beacon of light, love and discipline for so many of us. I dreaded this day, but rejoice in his memory and gifts. I treasure the memories of my time with him and all my student friends. So many memories we all have of his humor, talent and energy. There are perhaps 2-3 people I have ever met where it seems that effortless and inspired music just flows out of them virtually unconsciously. I consider these people geniuses in their own right. Bill is one of them. Of all the memories and lessons I received from Bill, one in particular sticks out as a profound life lesson:
I was in a class and there was a student that was sitting with his legs crossed. I said “Why do you sit like that with your legs crossed like a girl?” Bill said, “Steven, don’t make fun of the way someone else feels comfortable.” It caught me at the root of the foundation of my moral evolve and from then on I never criticized anyone for what they wore, how they sat, or anything that is a self-expression of who they are. That is the power of a few words from someone you love and respect.
I remember one of his original choral compositions for our high school choir. As I’m writing this I can hear in my head that brilliant choral arrangement. It was called. “Holy Night Quiet and Still.” May it be for you now, finally, dear man.
God Bless you Bill, and thank you forever.
July 20th, 1:28 pm