Self taught mu­si­cian, long time per­former

Bay de Verde roots in­stilled love of mu­sic for mu­si­cian


When the an­nual Grand­par­ents Day cel­e­bra­tion was held at Wood­land Ele­men­tary in Dildo June 10, most peo­ple just took it for granted lo­cal singer Richard Woodrow would be among the en­ter­tain­ment.

Woodrow, who re­tired from teach­ing at the school in 2001, has been per­form­ing at the an­nual event for over 20 years. In fact Woodrow, along with another Grade 5 teacher, Barry Smith of Bay Roberts (also re­tired) founded the Grand­par­ents Day cel­e­bra­tion at the school.

“ The first one ( Grand­par­ents Day) we or­ga­nized was held around the mid eight­ies, just after the new so­cial stud­ies pro­gram came into ef­fect,” re­calls Woodrow. “ It put a lot of fo­cus on our her­itage and the im­por­tance of find­ing out where we came from and em­pha­sized the need to con­tinue our New­found­land tra­di­tions. Grand­par­ents played a huge role in that, so we started ask­ing them ( Grand­par­ents) to come to the school and talk about what it was like grow­ing up in New­found­land years ago. Over the years we had nu­mer­ous speak­ers.”

Woodrow says the direc­tors and staff of the for- mer Avalon North In­te­grated School Board and the Avalon West School Dis­trict sup­ported the con­cept.

“They saw it as a valu­able tool for teach­ing and learn­ing. The stu­dents re­ally en­joyed it and never for­got what they learned. It also helped them re­al­ize the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing their cul­ture.” Over the years the event at Wood­land grew. “We started invit­ing more peo­ple in and re­ally put a fo­cus on mu­sic. We made it just as en­joy­able for the Grand­par­ents as for the stu­dents. Ev­ery year we would add to the pro­gram un­til we had in­cluded all kinds of New­found­land food, per­form­ers, songs and dance.”

Dur­ing his 30-year ca­reer as a class­room teacher, Woodrow of­ten brought his gui­tar and ac­cor­dion to school with him as teach­ing tools. And while other teach­ers in schools across the prov­ince were strug­gling to find ways to in­stil an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of New­found­land his­tory in their stu­dents, Woodrow al­ready had a plan in place. Wher­ever pos­si­ble he in­cor­po­rated mu­sic into the cur­ricu­lum.

Ac­cord­ing to many of his for­mer stu­dents the sig­nif­i­cance of a past event was best learned by lis­ten­ing to Woodrow play a song about that event on his but­ton ac­cor­dion.

Dur­ing his time at Wood­land, Woodrow, along with another teacher, Brenda Brown, also founded the tra­di­tional New­found­land dance group, The Wood­land Lancer Dancers. The group per­formed at many com­mu­nity and school events, in­clud­ing Grand­par­ents Day.

Self taught mu­si­cian

After his re­tire­ment Woodrow joined a band and the group Is­land Trio play at com­mu­nity func­tions all over the is­land. The mild man­nered mu­si­cian also per­forms solo and is a reg­u­lar en­ter­tainer at the Woody Is­land Re­sort, Pla­cen­tia Bay. He has also pro­duced three al­bums - Im­ages of me, No other love and Is­land Favourites.

He says his love for New­found­land mu­sic first took hold when he was grow­ing up in Bay de Verde.

As with most small com­mu­ni­ties, mu­sic was a big part of so­cial­iz­ing and a way to pass the time. The first in­stru­ment he taught him­self to play was the but­ton ac­cor­dion.

“There were al­ways lots of peo­ple com­ing and go­ing at our house and plenty of mu­sic be­ing played,” Woodrow re­flects.

“This as well as the songs be­ing played on the

‘My mother bor­rowed an old ac­cor­dion from some­one in the com­mu­nity for me to use’

Big 6 ra­dio pro­gram is where it all started for me I guess. My fam­ily were also very en­cour­ag­ing, my mother bor­rowed an old ac­cor­dion from some­one in the com­mu­nity for me to use, it had a few holes in it, but to me it was a won­der­ful in­stru­ment. I’d lis­ten to the songs and all the notes and then play them. The first tune I ever played on the ac­cor­dion was

Shoe the Don­key, I learned it from Don Keys, a fel­low from Bay de Verde.”

When Woodrow was around 10 years old he got a brand new ac­cor­dion.

“ My brother Luke, who was in the Navy, came home for a visit and brought one back to me. It was one of the best gifts I ever re­ceived,” he said.

Dur­ing his teens Woodrow started teach­ing him­self how to play the gui­tar and be­fore long he dis­cov­ered he could also carry a tune. How­ever, while he was ex­tremely tal­ented, he was also painfully shy. Many years passed be­fore he was able to drum up the courage to sing and play for a large au­di­ence. His abil- ity to over­come his bash­ful­ness while on stage came as a sur­prise to all who knew him, even to his wife Marie.

“ If some­one had told me when we were mar­ried ( 34 years ago) that Richard would some day be singing and play­ing in pub­lic, I would have told them they were crazy,” she chuck­les. “ He was just too timid and shy.”

Woodrow and Marie re­side in Dildo. The cou­ple has two daugh­ters, Jen­nifer and Ja­nine and three dogs, Wil­low, Cur­ley and Fozzie.

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

MILD MAN­NERED MU­SI­CIAN - Richard Woodrow sings the New­found­land song

dur­ing Grand­par­ents Day at Wood­land Ele­men­tary in Dildo June 10. The re­tired teacher has been per­form­ing at the an­nual event ever since it be­gan some­time dur­ing the mid eight­ies.

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