Through music, Chris LaMarca of West Babylon tapped the talents of a generation of Amityville students, steering some into music careers and sending off others with greater appreciation for the art form he loved and taught so well.
The wildly popular educator and accomplished jazz musician, a graduate of Amityville Memorial High School himself, died Sunday. He was 57.
"So many of Chris' students have gone on to successful careers as musicians and music teachers, and many more of them earned individual honors based on his instruction and the leadership and caring he exhibited in his work," Fran Fernandez, Amityville director of fine and performing arts, said in a statement released by the school district.
Amityville Superintendent of Schools John Williams said: "It has been a tremendous joy to attend school concerts and listen to his students perform. You don't replace a person like Chris LaMarca; he was beloved by all and will truly be missed."
But LaMarca returned to his home district in 1996 to inspire students at Edmund W. Miles Middle School through the finer points of musical performance.
He went on to teach fifth- and sixth-grade music at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School and then at his alma mater, Amityville High, where he served as the director of the jazz band. He led the chorus for the past two years.
He taught a full load, five classes, at the high school, and from 2004 to 2006 he served as district coordinator for music. He was also a longtime member of the local Bay Big Band.
The jazz ensembles he formed with the students have enjoyed regional renown. They've been invited to perform at the New York State School Music Association Majors Festival, and both soloists and groups have done well, some clinching gold and silver medals at the competition.
Funeral services are Friday at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in Amityville. Condolences may be sent to the family's home.