“I fell into a lot of lucky spots.” That’s how Rich Simcox describes his musical career. “ It’s not always what you know, but who you know that matters most.” But his great musical talent certainly enabled those connections.
Rich grew up surrounded by music. His mother’s family were “pickers and grinners”, while his father’s family reached out to classical and Dixieland. Rich wanted to emulate his dad.
Dick Simcox, Rich’s dad, directed school music programs in Bucyrus during Rich’s youth. In fourth grade, Rich started playing the trumpet, which remains his favorite instrument.
His dad knew teaching music to be a vocation of long hours and short vacations. He told his two sons and daughter, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t go into music.” They all chose music.
The Simcox family history shows their deep Cambridge roots. Rich was born there, his dad grew up there. Grandpa Simcox performed vaudeville at the Strand and Liberty theaters. Great-grandpa Simcox had a harness shop by the courthouse. It seemed only natural for Rich to drift back this direction.
He admits to being a gypsy at heart so he has been on many musical adventures. That all started when he became a member of the Air Force Band, one of his favorite musical journeys. Most of the time they worked out of Scott Air Force Base in Missouri. The 45 piece band played for parades, school concerts, community events, and military funerals.
In the 70s, his dad moved to Tri-Valley High School and in his spare time formed “The Dick Simcox Big Band”. Rich at the time was attending Muskingum College so became part of his dad’s band. When his dad passed in 1979, Rich decided he would keep the band performing as long as possible. One thing he wanted to do was always keep his dad’s name as the name of the band.
While his biggest inspiration remained with his dad, he also listened carefully to Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen. Rich said he always hoped to emulate the tunefulness and tone quality of Bobby Hackett, coronet player.
Locally, Rich taught music at several high schools as well as Muskingum College. Many remember him coming to their homes for private lessons. He has led many musical groups in the area over the years, including: Barbershop Chorus, Sweet Adelines, and Land ‘O Lakes Chorus.
His involvement with music in the area extends to many organizations and listing them all would take an entire page. To name a few, he has played trumpet or french horn in Cambridge City Band, Coshocton Lake Park Band, Southeastern Ohio Symphony Orchestra and Zanesville City Band. He’s directed musicals at Living Word and Cambridge Performing Arts Center.
While directing has been one of his strong points, participating as an actor gave him great pleasure at CPAC. He played lead roles in popular musicals such as “The Music Man”, “Carousel” and “The Flower Drum Song”. His talent in so many varied musical arenas led him to say, “Music is my vocation and avocation.”
This outstanding musician played trumpet on cruise ships and has kept the “Dick Simcox Big Band” alive with performances throughout the area. Rich reflects, “I’ve done more than I ever thought I would.”
Directing the choir at First Christian Church in Cambridge since 1978 still gives him great pleasure. The church music lifts his soul as they make a joyful noise to the Lord. In his spare time, he also enjoys camping and fishing.
It’s a tragedy to Rich that schools are doing away with music programs. There’s a big correlation between participation in musical activities and excellence in other areas of study. He feels that the reason this area has so many talented musicians today comes from great music teachers, such as Howdy Max, John Matheny, Max Trier, Diane Box, and Todd Bates.
Rich perhaps gave the best description of his role in music. He’s a musical engineer, who organizes whatever needs done or put together. But admitted he couldn’t do it without networking with all his connections.
According to those who know him well, Rich’s specialty is motivation. “He can get more out of most people than they think they can produce.” Music has been a lifelong adventure for Rich.