Robert “Doc” Mulligan

The Reading music family recently suffered a major loss when Robert “Doc” Mulligan passed on January 8 at 94.

Everyone loved Doc. He was an icon, the musical patriarch of our community.

Doc was remembered for his love and devotion to family, his successful medical career, and his lifelong passion for music.

He lived a life worth living and a musical life worth celebrating.

Born in Ashland (PA), young Bob Mulligan played trombone in his high school band. That led to gigs in dance bands and a lifelong love of jazz music. He continued playing after high school as a member of the Penn State Blue Band, also performing in a campus big band.

Pursuit of a medical career after college put music briefly on hold, but it wasn’t long until he began the journey that would lead to not only a distinguished career in radiology at the Reading Hospital, but also to notoriety as a gifted musician and arranger.

Doc went on to perform with and write music for various local groups, including the Reading Big Band, the Dave Stahl Big Band and the Bobby Mercer Road Show.

Doc rarely charged for his arranging services. His charts have ended up in the books of many big bands across the county, the state, and well beyond.

Doc was featured many times during the Berks Jazz Fest, including a special 2009 concert he produced, at 83 — “Doc Mulligan & Friends” – featuring a large ensemble performing the music of George Gershwin and Cole Porter.

In 2005, Doc was presented with the inaugural prestigious Frank Scott Award by Jerry and Carolyn Holleran, recognizing his lifelong contributions to music and jazz education in Berks County.

In 2015, he was honored at the 25th annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest with a commissioned composition dedicated to him — “Pretzel City Trilogy” — composed by Chris Heslop.

Doc has influenced and mentored many generations of musicians throughout his lifetime.

He was one of the original founders and promoters of the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest jazz education program (now known as Get JazzED), and has led to the Berks Jazz Fest declaring the first Sunday of the fest as “Doc Mulligan Get JazzED Day.”

The annual event, features two jazz festival for students – middle school in the afternoon and high school in the evening.

Due to COVID, family and friends said goodbye to Doc during a graveside service at Gethsemane Cemetery.

So it was only fitting that longtime friend Dave Stahl led a group of musicians to remember and honor Doc with a proper musical farewell.

Joining Stahl for a medley of songs were Chris Heslop, Mike Eben, Chuck Dressler, Dave Lazorcik, Ron Stabinsky, Scott Rhoads, Ken Kemmerer, Dan Hoover and Garrett Hynemann.

Doc left all of us with legacy of many musical memories that will last forever.