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Benefit concert memorializes beloved music teacher Chris LaMarca

Amityville Memorial High School hosts a concert honoring popular music teacher Chris LaMarca, who died of a heart attack shortly after Thanksgiving. Proceeds from the concert are to be donated to a scholarship fund for LaMarca's son. (Jan. 4, 2013)

Anthony Abate grabbed his saxophone and played John Coltrane’s classic “My Favorite Things” during a benefit concert Friday night for a beloved teacher.

The 11th-grader was among the dozens of students at Amityville Memorial High School who performed in memory of their music teacher, Chris LaMarca, who died suddenly in November at the age of 57.

“He was my best friend, a mentor, a father to me,” said Abate, 16, of Amityville, who also performed songs Goo Goo Dolls, Stone Temple Pilots and Led Zeppelin. “He taught us to love music and none of us ever want to stop playing. He just keeps us going and he’s our reason now to keep going.”

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For 17 years, LaMarca, of West Babylon, inspired students to find a deeper appreciation for music and was also an accomplished jazz musician.

“He was a beloved music teacher in the district and influenced the lives of many students,” said Robert Claps, of Hauppauge, president of the Amityville Teachers Association. “He was the shining light of the district. A lot of kids are devastated by this, so we decided to run a benefit concert to provide students with some sort of closure and an avenue to show what he brought to their lives.”

About 200 people filled the seats in the school’s auditorium and nearly $2,000 was raised which will go toward a scholarship fund for LaMarca’s 13-year-old son, Miles.

LaMarca inspired his former student Brendan McGlone to pursue music after high school. The freshman at Molloy College is now studying music education to follow in his mentor’s footsteps.

“When I came in as a freshman he urged me to keep going,” said McGlone, 18, of Amityville. “He helped me grow as a musician. We all miss him, but he’s not really gone. He’ll be with us through our music because without him we couldn’t play any of this music.”

LaMarca, a native of Morocco, Africa, graduated from Amityville High School in 1973 and returned 23 years later to teach in the district. He served as the director of the jazz band at his alma mater and also led the chorus for the past two years.

“I’m so impressed by the students showing us what a great legacy he left behind,” said his wife Michelle LaMarca, 43, of West Babylon. “This level of appreciation and love is once in a lifetime. He became a surrogate father to many of these kids and I’m so blessed to see my husband get this attention.”

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