David Ozzie Ahlers — or Ozzie, as I’m sure he’d want us to call him — is talking about his volunteer work as a board member and musical director with one of the nonprofits he works with, Blue Star Music Camp.
Along with other professional musicians and producers, Ozzie contributes to the success of weeklong summer camps at which musically inclined teenagers create and perform a weekly show at the Playhouse in San Anselmo, including an unplugged preview at the Cedars of Marin, a home for mentally handicapped adults in Ross.
This is what he tells the kids: “If we have a gift of music, we have to give it back to keep it.”
Ahlers will be giving back Saturday afternoon at the Novato City Green — the lawn area next to — with Phillip Claypool and other band members as part of the "Days on the Green" series.
The youthful 65-year-old musician practically bounces with enthusiasm and tends to punctuate all his sentences with a chuckle, seemingly on the lookout for any reason to upgrade to a belly laugh.
“It becomes very much like sports, with teamwork,” he says of working with the young musicians. “It’s great to see kids working on songs not just for themselves but supporting each other while working on shows.”
The keyboardist extraordinaire knows a thing or two about teamwork. In four decades of professional musicianship, Ozzie has worked on dozens of records, been invited to join many illustrious bands, toured the world doing what he loves, and played on and produced albums with former Jefferson Starship guitarist and current smooth jazz ace Craig Chaquico, including the Grammy-nominated Acoustic Planet. Ozzie has also recently created an instructional DVD series entitled “Killer Keyboards Made Simple” for guitarcontrol.com.
Ozzie's home has been California since Van Morrison heard him play during a session in Woodstock, N.Y., and invited him to join his band in “beautiful Marin County.” The year was 1972, back when Morrison lived in Fairfax. Gigs with Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Garcia followed.
Following a four-year stint living and working in San Francisco on the groundbreaking Levis 501 jean television commercials in the late 1980s as songwriter, arranger and voice-over, Ozzie moved to Novato.
"I wanted to come out to more space," he says. "I bike ... up and down hills of Mount Burdell and love riding around town on my bike. It keeps me connected."
(I remember those Levi commercials well and being in the radio business, can appreciate a great voice-over. Being the affable guy he is, Ozzie lets loose the signature line, “501 Blues” and it’s like I have spiky hair and slouchy legwarmers all over again. But I digress from the business at hand.)
Ozzie is also involved in Saturday's event in Novato through another volunteer-run nonprofit, Rock for Good. Ozzie has been a board member for over two years under the leadership of Mr. Get-it-Done, Dan Steadman.
“Rock for Good is an incredibly wonderful organization providing music and music education for kids and outreach to Japan and Haiti,” Ozzie says.
Rock for Good's latest project is putting on "Days on the Green" for the next three Saturdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m. These are free, family-friendly events on the lawn next to the newly renovated City Hall in Old Town.
Ozzie is not only behind the scenes for this music series, but also on stage playing American country rock with this Saturday. Matt Willis on drums, Josh Zucker on bass, Jimmy Dillon (founder of Blue Star Music Camp) will play guitar. Beverages including beer and wine will be available for purchase.
"It's free, family fun from 9 months to 90 years old," Ozzie says.