May 21, 1944 – April 15, 2022 William John Augustine passed away Friday, April 15, 2022 in Santa Monica, CA. He is survived by his brother George, his sister Elizabeth (Preston), his wife Rita, their daughter Kristen (Bryan), their son Jon (Lori), their grandchildren Jordan (Hailey), Jacob, Nathan, Luke, and Sophia, and their niece Angela and nephew Marc.
Bill was born in Greenwich, CT, to Frances (Gzeckowicz) and George Augustine. He went to Glenville School before proceeding to graduate from St. Mary’s High School in 1962. He attended both Niagara University and Bridgeport University.
At Glenville Elementary, Bill played his first musical instrument: a school-supplied saxophone. During his teenage years, Bill began performing with small bands at venues around the Tri-State Area, including memorable gigs at the popular Peppermint Lounge in Manhattan. He continued playing evening gigs after graduating from high school, supporting himself with various jobs such as bookkeeping, New York Times paper delivery, and staff work at a personnel agency.
Bill and Rita were married for 55 years. Their first child, Kristen, was born in White Plains, NY, in 1969. Before their second child, Jon, arrived in 1971, they left the East Coast for Santa Monica, CA, where they settled permanently.
Bill established himself on the West Coast as a prolific pianist, forming his own groups or joining others to perform music in a wide variety of genres, his primary passion being jazz. In due time, he discovered that he possessed a natural talent for passing on his musical knowledge – gathered from other musicians, his voracious readings, and his own experiences as a player – to other curious musicians and pupils. He began teaching piano at Sherman Clay and later at Merrill’s Music in Santa Monica. He eventually rented a studio of his own and taught students who ranged in age from 5 to 95 years old. One of his greatest talents was creating personalized arrangements of jazz standards for his students and for professional musicians.
One of Bill’s students, Jeff Lantos, taught American History at Marquez Charter School and envisioned a way to engage his students in their learning by having them sing and act. He asked Bill to collaborate with him by writing the music to the stories and the lyrics he wrote. Together they wrote six, 2-act musicals, including Water and Power (about the first cotton mills and first workers’ strike in Lowell, MA), which was performed in September, 2010 at the Duke Theater on Broadway as part of the New York music festival. Bill and Jeff co-wrote four songs for the NBC television show Parenthood, as well as the musical Tight Quarters, the winner of nine Drama-Logue Awards.
Bill collaborated with renowned music producer and bass player, Malcolm Cecil, on several jazz albums, including A Jazzy Christmas.
Until his health made it impossible to continue, Bill taught Jazz Improvisation at Santa Monica College. Evaluation comments from his college students reflected what so many of his private students said: “Bill encourages growth from his students to really improve to the best of our ability.” “I love that Bill appreciates every student no matter what the skill level. You can tell he loves to teach, and his love of music is infectious.”
Bill served his church community, St. John’s Presbyterian, as director of the Scripture Singers children’s choir, where he set Bible verses to original music and brought joy to many generations of church youth.
A memorial service will be held on:
Saturday, May 28 at 1:00 pm
St. John’s Presbyterian Church
11000 National Blvd.
Los Angeles 90064
Please consider sending a
contribution in Bill’s name to:
The Foundation for Blind Children
1234 E. Northern Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85020
Published by Los Angeles Times from May 19 to May 22, 2022.