The family of Austin A. Venzen regretfully announces his passing on May 15, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.
It is often said that life is measured not on the number of years you live but the dots between the sunrise and sunset dates. It can be said that he crowded a lot of life with those dots and had many layers. He was a true mentor, life coach, excellent musician, teacher, humanitarian, organizer and lover of the arts. On the other hand he was a disciplinarian and a no-nonsense person who held his students to high standards. Another side of him is that he was a proud Savanero, a true Virgin Islander and a diehard Yankee fan. And yet another side of him was that was a husband, father, grandfather, and a father figure to many and a friend,
Known as professor Venzen, Mr. Austin A. Venzen, Mr. Venzen, Venzen or just V; his hands reached far --- as he saw his students as his adopted children and he maintained a relationship in their lives by following their careers and providing support and encouragement.
He was a legend not only on his home island of St. Thomas, but throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean on a whole. The title "Professor Venzen" or "Prof" was synonymous with music and discipline.
Austin A. Venzen was a retired associate professor of music (woodwinds) from the University of the Virgin Islands. A graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School's Class of 1970 and Tennessee State University (Nashville) where he earned his bachelor's and master's in music. Upon his graduation, he returned to St. Thomas to begin his teaching career in 1976. Initially assigned as a band director to Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and moved to Charlotte Amalie High School for many years. In 1984, he moved to the College of the Virgin Islands, now known as the University of the Virgin Islands, where he remained until his retirement in December of 2012.
He was always a believer in exposing young people to the art of music where he was inspired by one of his own tutors, Mr. Charles Cox. During his tenure in the public schools he developed marching and concert bands that would give concerts at various community events. He also worked and taught at Toneskolen School of Music under Agatha Canfield.
On the collegiate level, his university band toured and cruised many islands in the Caribbean, giving concerts on Tortola (BVI), St. Kitts-Nevis, Anquilla, Barbados, St. Luica, St. Maarten, Saba, Antigua, just to name a few. The goal was multipurposed; to spread the universal language of music; to expose his students to their Caribbean neighbors; to expose the Caribbean communities and students to a true musical ensemble that would in turn encourage them to look at music as an outlet and more importantly to become involved in their own school’s music program; to support the music education students who had attended the University of the Virgin Islands in their efforts of building their own music program in their home islands. Concerts were held to raise monies to buy instruments but also for the university on a whole to spread the word about the benefits of attending UVI.
At the university level he was adamant about exposing the community to the theatre through musicals like “Amahl and the Night Visitors”, “The Sound of Music”, “The King and I”, and “Damn Yankees”, just to name a few. Additionally, he wanted to expose and encourage the young talent with productions like “An Evening on Broadway”, “Night on Lil’ Broadway”.
He worked with the UVI Little Theater by serving as musical director on many of their projects.
He traveled to numerous public, private, and parochial schools throughout the Caribbean, conducting workshops individually and with his Esquire Woodwind Trio. He was a flute soloist on many programs and worked with various church choirs on St. Thomas, often incorporating their talents with his concert band.
Professor Venzen’s pride and joy was the initiation of the Summer Band Camp (concert, jazz and ensembles) at the University of the Virgin Islands and at one point expanded to a band and opera camp with professor Elvira O. Green. This was an extensive training program for young musicians that drew students from the three Virgin Islands, various Caribbean Islands and mainland United States. Concerts were held weekly in Emancipation Garden, WICO Dock, in various churches and an award-winning performance at the end of the camp. Productions included “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream”, “Hansel and Gretel” and the “Barber of Serville”.
Upon his retirement, he relocated to Nashville to be with his wife Roxie. His musical endeavors did not stop: he taught private students; worked at the W. O. Smith School of Music; participated in the Metropolitan Wind Ensemble and became a member of the music ministry at his adopted church of Clark Memorial United Methodist. At the same time, he continued to come back to the Virgin Islands to run his summer band camp through 2018.
A visionary and a person with high principles, many who crossed his path worked to live up to the expectations of their dear “Prof. Venzen.”
Professor Venzen was a lifelong member of Christchurch Methodist and his dear Class No. 1. He maintained memberships with Kappa Kappa Psi Honorary Band Fraternity; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; and Harmonic Lodge 356 on St. Thomas.
He leaves to mourn his wife, Roxie B. Venzen; sons, DeWayne T. Venzen (Desiree); Derrick I. Venzen; granddaughter, Bianca Grace Venzen; brothers, Warren Brown; Valimore, Adul, Adullah, Valenteen, Pershing (Lorene), Harold (Joan) Venzen; sisters, Ancelia (Jospeh) Benjamin, Andrea Williams, Florence, June, Olive Venzen.
Additionally, he leaves a host of family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Petronita Foy; and father, Ebenezer Venzen.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Smith Funeral Directors, Inc., 706 Monroe St., Nashville, Tenn.
Services are set for Saturday, May 23, in Nashville and will be Facebook livestreamed through Smith Funeral Directors at noon (CST). A memorial celebration will be held in St. Thomas, USVI, at a later date.