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Donated Piano Honors Memory of Newfane Native and King Harvest Member, Ron Altbach

by Madonna

The community is gathering once more to honor one of its cherished members.

Through the collective efforts of friends and neighbors of Ron Altbach, a beloved Newfane native and keyboardist for King Harvest, a grand piano has been generously donated to the Newfane High School music department in his memory. The dedication ceremony for the piano, in honor of the late musician, will take place during Newfane High School’s Vocal Showcase Concert this Wednesday.

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Reflecting on the community’s support, Altbach’s widow, Elka, expressed gratitude, stating, “Ron’s family was so invested in that community and now the community has given back.”

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Altbach, the son of Dr. Walter Altbach, a co-founder of the Newfane hospital, spent his formative years in Newfane, attending local schools where he showcased his musical talents by playing various instruments.

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George Bridgeman, a longtime family friend, reminisced about their shared musical journey, recalling Altbach’s remarkable musical aptitude from a young age. Bridgeman fondly remembered, “I discovered that he was a jewel, right off the bat. He obviously had much capability musically as a young fella, and right out of the box, he just could play.”

Following his graduation from Newfane High School, Altbach pursued his passion for music, performing with different bands while studying at Cornell University and under the tutelage of classical pianist Nadia Boulanger in France.

It was during his time in France that Altbach co-founded King Harvest with fellow musicians Rod Novak, David “Doc” Robinson, and Ed Tuleja, achieving widespread acclaim with their hit song “Dancing in the Moonlight” in 1972. The band briefly called Olcott home in 1973 as their single climbed the charts.

Tragically, Altbach passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia complications in New York City last year.

In the aftermath of his untimely death, friends and neighbors, including Dan Dy and Mary and Jack Martin, initiated fundraising efforts to honor his memory. The community’s response was overwhelming, raising approximately $7,000 primarily through the sale of commemorative t-shirts at last year’s King Harvest concert in Olcott, dedicated to Altbach’s life.

With the funds secured, a six-foot Kawai grand piano was chosen from Denton, Cottier & Daniels piano store in Amherst, marking a poignant moment as Altbach’s signature song, “Dancing in the Moonlight,” played on the radio during the selection process.

Ahead of the dedication ceremony, a plaque will be affixed to the piano, followed by remarks from Elka Altbach and a video tribute honoring her late husband. During the concert, the high school choir will perform a rendition of “Dancing in the Moonlight,” accompanied by Chris Hart on drums, Ron Martin on the grand piano, and Newfane alumni Cameron Seib on guitar and Blake Wilson on bass.

Elka expressed her heartfelt sentiment, stating, “I wish I had Ron instead of all this, but we’re certainly doing everything we can to keep his spirit alive.”

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