Dick Grove, influential jazz pianist, composer and arranger who founded and operated the Dick Grove School of Music in the San Fernando Valley for two decades, has died. He was 71.
Grove, who in recent years operated the Las Vegas-based correspondence program School Without Walls, died Dec. 26 in Laughlin, Nev., of a heart attack.
Known for his pragmatism and musicianship, Grove established his original school in 1973 to teach people to make music and to make a living as musicians. By the time it collapsed in bankruptcy 20 years later, the school was well-known as the area’s leading trade school for instrumentalists and singers planning to work in Hollywood studios and jazz clubs.
The Los Angeles Jazz Society awarded Grove its jazz educator award in 1988.
At the school’s peak, about 450 students a year from as far as Iceland and Australia paid tuition of up to $8,500 to attend classes taught by such commercially successful people as Henry Mancini, Bill Conti, Joyce Collins and Lalo Schifrin. Even established singing stars such as Michael Jackson, Linda Ronstadt and Barry Manilow took Grove classes.
“Some people see a line between the performer and composer, the performer and the arranger,” Grove told The Times in 1986. “We try to break down that line. Today, a guy needs to do everything. If he just plays the trumpet, he won’t survive.”
Grove’s diverse curriculum included classes in basic musicianship like harmony and sight-reading, as well as film scoring, sound engineering, singing and playing various instruments, conducting and arranging.
“We’re not interested in turning out piano players,” the pianist Grove told The Times in 1983. “We’re interested in turning out musicians who play piano. The only advantage you can have over the competition is to be better prepared.”
In 1989, Grove estimated that 80% of his former students “were making a living in the music business.”
The bearded, chain-smoking Grove said he started the local school as something of “a lark” by putting an ad in a musicians’ union newspaper. About 30 people responded, and he began by holding classes in the hallway outside the Studio City office where he composed and arranged music. The school was accredited in 1979 by the National Assn. of Schools of Music as a private, post-secondary institution. It moved to Van Nuys in 1989.
Born Richard Dean Grove in Lakeville, Ind., Grove studied music at the University of Denver and played and taught piano for a few years in the Denver area.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1954 and initially taught piano, arranging and harmony at the Westlake School of Music.
Grove went on to play with Alvino Rey’s band and various studio bands, arrange for Buddy Rich, “The King Family Show” and other television programs, write scores for Paul Horn and Nancy Wilson, and in the 1960s front his own big band. One of his key recordings was “Little Bird Suite” in 1963.
Grove is survived by his wife, Dolores; two daughters, Pamela Grove of Chatsworth and Louise Grove of Studio City; son, Jeff Grove of Lafayette, Colo., and stepson, Dana Rasch of Las Vegas.
Memorial services are being planned.