The Sax Man

Madison’s Schnabel
finds joy in his music

The retired engineer now leads The Madisonians band

HANOVER, Ind. (December 2015) – When he retired in 2000, Charles W. Schnabel returned to music. That’s what he liked best. It may not be his first love, but he pursues it like one. Educated in psychology and aerospace engineering, he spent most of his career in Madison, Ind., eventually retiring as assistant plant manager at the Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corporation (IKEC).
“I didn’t retire to sit down,” he said. “I wanted to be a musician. I worked day and night to get back to where I was.”
As a child in New Jersey, he played music. When the family moved to Madison, he continued with school music and played through high school and college. Schnabel now studies with Hunt Butler, professor at Kentucky State University and lead saxophonist with the Don Krekel Orchestra.
“He is an outstanding musician who is working with me primarily on improvisation,” Schnabel said.

Photo provided

The Madisonians  consists of (front row from left) Carrie Reindollar, Charles Schnabel, Austin Dixon, (back row from left) Tim Beitzel, Bill Kindoll, Alex Dixon, Phil Joyce and Larry Wickersham.

Butler of Louisville describes Schnabel as “a quick study,” a “lifelong learner who really is progressing fast.” Schnabel is the only adult student he has. Schnabel drives to Butler’s home every two weeks on the east side of Louisville. They met at a weeklong Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop on jazz improvisation.
Schnabel is a “fascinating individual” who makes a “beautiful sound” on tenor saxophone, Butler said.
Schnabel, 77, is a tall, articulate, soft-spoken man with white hair and a long, white beard. He has a sound-proofed music studio on his farm in western Jefferson County, where he lives with his wife, Roselle, who retired as purchasing manager at Grote Industries.
He enjoys hunting, gardening and fishing. His studio is filled with instruments, files, music, mounted fish, a deer head, framed degrees and certificates, and memorabilia.
Small groups might rehearse there, but he prefers to rehearse in public places.
“I’ve always been a fisherman,” he said, adding that he even worked as a fishing guide after yet another grant ended for an aerospace engineering program that was his career. He returned to Madison for a visit, and his parents suggested that IKEC might have a job opening. He got the job and retired 30 years later.
Schnabel is a 1959 graduate of Hanover College, where he majored in psychology. After graduation, he spent one year teaching math at New Washington High School for the grand sum of $3,600. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, which sent him to school at the University of Arizona. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering with high distinction.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Charles Schnabel poses with a book of original Madisonians music.

For several years, he worked maneuverable re-entry configurations so that astronauts could fly back and withstand the heat of re-entry. He worked in human aspects of the space program and also served in Washington, D.C., on an Ad Hoc Committee that studied military use of space, information that used to be classified, he noted. 
“Lots of old-time scientists were musicians,” Schnabel said. He discussed the relationship between mathematics and music, as depicted on charts hung over his rehearsal area.
As a youth, Schnabel played with “The Madisonians,” the hottest dance band in the area in the 1950s. The late Harold Rothert played piano. This notable pianist went to school with Hoagie Carmichael. Charles “Shotgun” Harrod played trumpet. And Charles “Lic” Demaree played saxophone and trombone. Schnabel, who learned to play alto saxophone, played with “The Madisonians” until it closed. When Rothert, Harrod and Demaree retired, they gave their book of songs to Schnabel so the band would go on. He still has “The Madisonians” original music.
A revival of interest in ballroom dancing started, he thinks, with the popularity of the television show, “Dancing with the Stars.” A new generation of people has discovered the fun of getting together with live music, states the website for “The Madisonians.”
Schnabel started “The Madisonians” several years ago. They do more concert work than dances. Usually about 10 musicians play with that group. Dixieland music is especially popular in Europe, Schnabel said, but it also is popular here. About eight years ago, a small group of performing musicians got together to play some music they would enjoy. They are “Soundz of Dixieland.” Musicians include Bill Kindle, trombone; Dave Butler, trumpet; Brook Reindollar, trumpet; James Stanley, piano; Lisa Kramer, bass; Leon Michl, banjo; Rick Bennett, drums; Carrie Reindollar, clarinet and tenor saxophone; and Schnabel, soprano and tenor saxophone.
“The Madison area is rich in music and art,” Schnabel said. At last count, there are 27 musical groups in the area.
In addition to “Soundz of Dixieland” and “The Madisonians,” Schnabel works two or three times a week through “Mellow Soundz.” He plays his saxophone with canned accompaniment or with piano, bass and drums. He is available for art shows, club programs, dinner music, special music in church, retirement home entertainment and special business events.

• For more information about Charlie Schnabel’s musical services or The Madisonians band, call Schnabel at (812) 701-3446.

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