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Waupaca Rotary honors Greg Biba

Greg Biba, left, was honored with as a Paul Harris Fellow, a prestigious award within Rotary International. Biba was a music teacher for more than 30 years in Waupaca and also is the author of five novels. James Card Photo

Inspired many through music

By James Card

Greg Biba, an author, educator and musician, was honored at a Rotary Club of Waupaca meeting on the morning of March 13.

Biba has progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disease that affects eyesight, balance, walking and speech. There is no known cause and there is no cure.

Rotarians decided that Biba should be recognized for his efforts before his symptoms worsen.

Like other Rotary meetings, they have an in-house band that plays some tunes and they dedicated a song to Biba. It was the 1981 song “Leader of the Band” that Dan Fogelberg wrote as a tribute to his musician father.

Biba is the former Waupaca Middle School band director and jazz band instructor. He retired in 2019.

Biba was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor that acknowledges an individual who contributes, or who have contributions made in their name of $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation. It’s one of the most prestigious awards in the Rotary organization and it is named after the Rotary founder.

The Waupaca High School jazz band was present and they first played a jazzy, laid-back lounge music score and then they performed a rendition of the “House of the Rising Sun” that was so upbeat and powerful it could have been used in a Rocky movie training montage.

“Mr. Biba was my sixth and seventh-grade teacher who started me on trumpet. His passion for teaching music made it easy to enjoy band. Since middle school I have been part of concert band, wind ensemble, jazz band, pep band, numerous honor bands, and also I play “Taps’ out at King for veterans. Mr. Biba, my success and joy for playing are because of your patience, dedication and enthusiasm for making band fun. On behalf of myself and countless other students, thank you,” said Waupaca senior and band member Ian Sherman.

“It is impossible to measure the impact and magnitude a teacher can have especially when they spend such a long time in one place. The Waupaca High School instrumental program would not be here today without the dedication of Mr. Biba,” said Luke Sperl, another senior and band member.

The current middle school band director, Shana Rogney, addressed the audience and spoke of the importance of music education. She said the Fogelberg song brought her to tears because it fit Biba perfectly. They worked together for 16 years.

Rogney summarized Biba’s long list of achievements in the music program that included hosting concerts at nursing homes and at the Wisconsin Veterans Home.

Rogney also noted that Biba was a prankster and would often play practical jokes on fellow colleagues. She asked some teachers to share a few words about Biba and Rogney read their comments:

“Every time I hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” Greg Biba pops into my head,” said one teacher.

“I think he must be tone-deaf. I was part of a lot of practices getting ready for the concerts and he would say, ‘Thanks guys. That sounded great!” It didn’t. But his attitude was always great,” said another.

Rogney asked the jazz band students who had Biba for a teacher and many of them stood up to a round of applause.

In May 2022, Brianna Hepfler became the new band director at Waupaca High School.

“For a music teacher, we scope out the jobs, scope out the school district. When I was looking for a job here, I constantly heard all the time that Waupaca had such a great music program. Greg, you built such a strong foundation here that decades later, it’s still a place where people want to work because the foundation you laid and there are these wonderful musicians I get the privilege to work with because of your hard work,” said Hepfler.

Waupaca Rotary President Chuck Reynolds announced the club raised $1,600 for the repair and replacement of musical instruments in the school district.

Biba is the author of the “Quick Fix Band Instrument Repair Manual,” but he is better known as the author of five mystery and adventure novels. They can be found at www.bibabooks.net.

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