Life Builders: Ed Gerlach

This is the only picture I have with Mr. Gerlach in it. For the people from his band who see this picture, this was the gig that was conveniently located at a hospital. That’s Rudy Razo behind the drums. Buddy Sisco is standing in the back, Dave Womack sitting on the right in the the trombone section, Sylvester standing to the right of the band stand, Martin Langford on sax to the left, Don Elam on sax to the right and Ed Gerlach in the white coat in front, talking to the sound man (who I can’t remember his name).

Ed Gerlach as Role Model

I see Mr. Ed Gerlach as an important role model from my career…and really much more than just that. I admire him as a leader, as a musician and as a man. This Life Builders series is where I take an opportunity to recognize how other people have contributed to my success in life. When it comes to leadership role models, Mr. Gerlach is at the top of the list of people who have influenced me as a leader so it is only fitting that I dedicate one of these posts to him.

I am one of those few strange people who believe some things were better in an earlier era. Not all that is modern is good. Over the years I have struggled to find examples of men who uphold the same values as I do. Please understand what I’m saying. There are plenty of people who say they believe in those values, but so few of them actually live their lives accordingly. I recognize Mr. Gerlach as one of those people. This is important to me because I want to be that kind of man. It’s important to me because I know, from experience, that BEING that kind of man is far more difficult if you don’t have role models to follow.

Yes, I will agree that Mr. Gerlach is a musical icon in Houston and I’m about to talk about that as well. But I felt it was important to make this point first. When I take inventory of my life and look at the men who lived the way I want to live, Ed Gerlach is one of a surprisingly small number of men who I feel I can emulate that way.

Okay, now…moving on to the music stuff.

Music From the Big Band Era

Most people don’t know that I grew up with the music from the big band era. Most people my age did not, but my parents danced to many of the big bands and had plenty of LPs that we listened to during my childhood. While my friends were listening to Led Zepplin, Van Halen, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osborne, I was listening to the Four Freshman, Woody Herman, the Jacky Gleason Orchestra, Ray Conniff, Xavier Cugat and Prez Prado (etc.). Yes, we listened to other music at home as well, but the big band music was something we always came back to.

I specifically remember, before I started playing the trumpet, my father used to quiz me with those recordings. He would ask me to identify each of the solo instruments. Was it a sax? A trumpet? Trombone? These were my first music lessons and through those special moments, my father instilled in me an appreciation for music in general and more specifically for the big band stuff.

So it was always a great honor for me to have worked with Ed Gerlach in his orchestra. I had played in school jazz bands growing up, but I knew that when I started working with Mr. Gerlach, that this was the real thing. For those who don’t know it already, Ed Gerlach is Houston’s most prestigious big band leader and a past member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.


I never considered the Gerlach Orchestra to be “just another big band.” I’m not completely certain how to explain what I think the difference is. I have played big band gigs in El Paso, Chicago, Pittsburgh and with almost all of the bands local to Houston (I even played one gig with the Glenn Miller ghost band). None of the other bands I have played with have the same level of authenticity that was standard for Mr. Gerlach’s gigs. I always felt that a lot of effort was invested into preserving that authenticity, holding against the erosive tide of pop music and culture.

Some people would wrongly associate that preservation with something like a time capsule, as if playing those gigs was a portal to an earlier time. But I disagree with that interpretation of the music and Ed Gerlach’s work. I don’t see it as a preservation of a “time” as much as a preservation of “quality.” The Ed Gerlach Orchestra has a few modern tunes in the book, but the arrangements of those tunes never compromise the quality of the musical style  to which the band is committed to.

I hope that makes sense. I learned a great many lessons from my time on Mr. Gerlach’s gigs. I learned about the business. I learned about the music. I grew as a player in my almost twenty years with the band. I grew in ways that I KNOW would not have happened without his influence. But I do believe that the most important lesson I took away from that experience was this thing about the preservation of quality. Mr. Gerlach has a high standard and he expects his musicians to demonstrate that standard in their performances. This is the way I think it should always be and I am glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a fine ensemble.

Summary – Now It’s Your Turn!

As with all of these Life Builders posts, this one only briefly touches on a few key points. It is impossible to summarize any one person’s contribution to my life success in much detail this way. The most important thing here is that Mr. Gerlach knows, and you, my readers know, that I appreciate and acknowledge how he has helped me grow as a man.

That said, I want to encourage all of you who read this to begin doing the same thing in your own lives. Acknowledge those people who helped you succeed. Take inventory of your life successes and look at all the many people who helped you get to where you are. I’m telling you this now, on this page, because Mr. Gerlach was the first person I acknowledged this way. Writing about people on a blog is certainly not the only to do this. In fact, as I’m learning the hard way, it’s probably the most difficult way to do it. I’m making this a part of my blog because I’m in the process of writing about Love (see my Love Is posts). I am using these posts as examples for other people to follow.

So give it a try. Do it now before it’s too late.



About Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is primarily known as a Christian free-lance trumpet player in Houston, TX. Eddie makes a living playing trumpet, teaching trumpet and jazz improvisation, writing trumpet music and authoring trumpet books. His second book, Daily Routines for Trumpet, is used regularly by thousands of trumpet players around the world. If you would like to purchase some of his CD's, feel free to visit our online music store at
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