1.Name: Albert Erich Widmer
2. AKA - Nickname(s):
None suitable for public display, but you can call me Al.
3. Band member since:
I’ve been there from the beginning, taking a two-year break in 1986.
4. The primary function I serve in the band is as:
I spend the bulk of an evening playing the trumpet. I also handle various vocal
duties as well as miscellaneous percussion to keep my hands busy.
5. I can also fumble my way through playing:
Outside of the trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn, I am able to make some kind of noise
on most instruments; however, I wouldn’t say that I would perform on any other
instrument. I can play a handful of chords on the guitar. At one point, I was also
taking out day to day frustrations beating up on a drum kit in an attempt to play
along with my old Beatles, Hollies and Raspberries albums.
6. I started playing music when I was:
It all began in the summer of 1970. I had just turned 11 when I tooted my first
notes. I can remember coming home from my first music lesson. I went and sat in
my room and kept on playing the one note I learned. It wasn’t a pretty sound
either. My trumpet teacher was pretty cool in that he sometimes would play the
guitar instead of his trumpet during a lesson. It was in the practice room where I
also experienced playing in a smoke filled room. Little did I know that it would
eventually prime me for playing in bars.
7. I started playing music because:
My dad essentially mandated “Thou shalt play the trumpet”. This was not
negotiable on my part. The plan was for me to play in a German Polka Band;
specifically the Gottschee’r Blaskapelle. It is a 25-piece brass band playing German
and Austrian polkas and waltzes. Most people can identify with a stereotypical
German Oom-Pah band (but definitely without the Lederhosen). I began performing
in bars and dance halls at the ripe old age of 12 and have since had the opportunity
to play in Canada, Germany, and Austria.
If it had been up to me, I would have rather played the Tenor Saxophone like Boots
Randolf or the Guitar like Roy Clark (he had that big note guitar book). It wasn’t
until high school when I actually began to enjoy the gift I was given. Up until then it
was pretty hellish.
8. Besides Pieces of Eight, I currently perform and/or have performed in these
Currently perform with the aforementioned Gottschee’r Blaskapelle. You just can’t
beat throwing back a few cold ones and playing polkas. Also, I can occasionally be
found performing with the Stone Pony Band.
9. Music is a fun hobby. But in real life in my day job, I am:
A Mechanical Engineer working at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. I work in the
Engineering Analysis Unit. Part of my job is to maintain the design and license basis
of the plant to ensure the plant runs safely. I also have a role as a System Analysis
Engineer as part of the Emergency Response Organization. I still don’t know what I
want to be when I grow up though.
10. Outside of performing with the band, I have a life. In my personal life:
I have been married since 1984 and have three children (between the ages of 8
and 18) and a dog. The kids think its kind of cool and actually have admitted that
they are proud of me (how often does a parent get that from a teenager).
11. When not performing in a band I like to:
Outside of family, work, and music, time is somewhat of a premium although I do
enjoy an occasional trip to the golf course to relax. I also enjoy just tinkering
around the house and in the garage. In my spare time, I usually try to sleep.
12. My thoughts on Pieces of Eight are…
About the band, I would say that personal amusement and mutual respect for each
other has been an essential ingredient to the longevity (although you would never
figure the mutual respect part just by observation). As each year goes by, I reflect
on the places we’ve played, the people we’ve met, and wonder how long this ride is
going to last. The only thing that’s changed in the last 26 years is that at after 2 a.
m., its getting harder and harder to load that truck. I had always figured the band
would last a year or two until we found something else to occupy our time. Boy was
13. My favorite band related saying is…
Relative to band sayings, two different instances but similar situations resulting in
one band quote comes to mind. Not necessarily my favorite but it conjures up
memories for most of the band. The first was just before the first trip to Daytona in
1983 when I had noticed a drop of fluid from the rear differential of the first band
truck. This led to - “What if the differential burns out on the way to Florida?” The
second quote was uttered at the Ferry ramp to Put-in-Bay. I noticed a clicking
sound coming from the rear wheels as the truck slowly rolled down the ramp. It was
then I mentioned - “What if the wheels fall off the truck on the way home?” I was
banned from ever beginning a thought or a statement with “What if…” as in both
instances, the consequences occurred as prophesized and are now part of POE
lore. Any use of the phrase “what if…” was met with a severe pummeling until it
was eventually beaten into obscurity.
14. My favorite memory of being in the band over the years is probably…
Relative to favorite band memories, there are so many and many more have since
faded away. One that stands out is when we played in Munich…no that was with
the Brass Band. I don’t know that I have a favorite POE memory although I would
say one that sticks out happened while playing at Put-In-Bay’s Boathouse. After
finishing the intro to Chicago’s ‘Make Me Smile’ - the horns were so tight and
sounded so powerful that the hair on my arms stood straight up. Kinda gives you
the same feeling as that perfect Tee shot…only better.
There must have been a million stupid things that have happened over the years
that would only make sense to someone present and in the same juvenile state of
mind. (for example, Dan accidentally hitting Bob in the forehead with a bottle cap
during a dinner. It stuck there for a moment and made a funny sound when it hit
him. That coupled with the look on Bob’s face caused half the band to go into
complete hysterics while the other half thought we were certifiably nuts.) This list
could go on and on. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve had stomach aches
just from laughing so hard.
15. Oh, I almost forgot, I wanted to add…
“Never stop enjoying the things that began as your destiny, for it is that which
keeps you from losing your mind”…..al - 2005