Music Teachers Hand Baton to Successors

David Douglas, left, and Marilyn Van Scoyoc
David Douglas, left, the East Hampton High School choral director, and Marilyn Van Scoyoc, the band director, are retiring from East Hampton High School after careers spanning 20 years and 26 years, respectively. Christine Sampson

When the audiences stood for ovations at band and choir concerts over the last two weeks at East Hampton High School, it was clearly the music directors who were being lauded. That’s because the concerts were the last to be conducted by Marilyn Van Scoyoc, the band director, and David Douglas, the choir director, who are retiring.

When Mr. Douglas began teaching here 20 years ago, Richard Burns, the district superintendent, said at a concert on June 1, “the choral program was barely limping along. I can remember a few conversations we had. How can we attract more students into the choral program?” Gesturing to a choir of about 120, Mr. Burns told Mr. Douglas, “Your musical genius inspired our students to do their very best. You tapped into their passions and helped them to develop a lifelong love of music.”

Mr. Douglas began his career playing classical guitar. “I have a very distinct memory of my freshman year in college, lying in my dormitory bed on a Friday or Saturday night, miserable. I was seeing a lot of people walk into the music building. . . . It was a performance of a Bach concerto. I’d heard instrumental music before, but I thought to myself, ‘Where have I been?’ ” He began studying classical guitar after hearing it played on the college radio station. His first teaching job was at a private school in Connecticut, and he later spent six years at a public school, where he was a finalist for a state teacher-of-the-year award. An injury to one of his hands caused him to branch into a different realm of music: choral conducting.

Among the highlights of his East Hampton career, he said, were a classroom visit by Billy Joel in 1997 and a trip with the Camerata, a group of auditioned singers, to Italy in 2014, which included a performance at a Mass in the Vatican City. He has also led two other auditioned groups, the Belle Voci, a girls ensemble, and the Manly Men boys choir. Mr. Douglas will be succeeded by Dylan Greene, a graduate of the State University at Fredonia who is one of his former students.

Olivia Salsedo, a senior who has been among Mr. Douglas’s singers for four years and who will study music in college, said, “We really connected. That was really important to me. He really set in stone what I wanted to do with my career. . . . He will be missed dearly.” Gage Reinboth-Lynch, a senior who has studied with both Mr. Douglas and Dr. Van Scoyoc, also said the teachers had affected his life. “Mr. Douglas has changed me not only musically but also as a person. He taught me to notice little things and how to find joy in music.” Referring to Dr.Van Scoyoc, he said, “Doc changed me as a musician. She taught me how to perform.”

Before Dr. Van Scoyoc took the stage on May 24 for her final appearance with the 85-student concert band, Mr. Burns recalled how, in 1990, the administration drove her and Mr. Douglas around town, showing them all the hot spots and courting them. “Common wisdom says that everyone is replaceable. I’d like to break with that tradition. Marilyn, what you did for countless students, parents, families, and the East Hampton community is forever irreplaceable and will never be forgotten. You are one of a kind. A gem,” he said.

Dr. Van Scoyoc, who plays trumpet, clarinet, tenor and alto sax, baritone horn, flute, and trombone, said in an interview that she had loved music since her days in the junior high band in the Three Village School District. Her career, which included teaching at that district’s Ward Melville High School and Walt Whitman High School, among others, has spanned 34 years. She said retiring now makes sense. She has conducted not just the concert band but also the jazz band and marching band, which took her to 26 consecutive Memorial Day parades and all but two football games during her years at East Hampton. She has also taught advanced placement music theory and conducted the fourth-grade band at John M. Marshall Elementary School. She advised the Interact Club, which is a community service group, and conducted the high school musical production for many years. And she has seen quite a few students go on to professional music careers.

“I feel like I’ve been able to enrich the lives of the students, but I’m not trying to make musicians out of everyone,” she said. “I’m teaching how to have a love of music and appreciate the beautiful things in life. I’m teaching commitment, hard work, teamwork, service, and self-expression. Those are all really worthy goals.”

As students had said of Mr. Douglas, so did others say Dr. Van Scoyoc went beyond routine teaching. Eitan Albukrek, a senior, said, “More than the music itself, Doc is like an aunt to me. I don’t mean that in a corny way. She had a very good influence on all of us. I think the freshmen were always intimidated by her, but by the end she’s your best friend.” Joseph Bordino, another senior, said she helped him grow attached to music. “She’s always happy, full of energy, and cracks good jokes,” he said.

Dr. Van Scoyoc will be succeeded by Christopher Mandato, who was the band director for several years at the Montauk School. “It’s so easy to pass the baton to such a talented young man. I’m sure he will have a long and wonderful tenure here at East Hampton,” she said.

She and Mr. Douglas both said they were grateful to East Hampton for giving them the chance to teach here. “The district, the administration, and the parents have been very supportive, and I’ve always had great students,” Dr. Van Scoyoc said. “It’s a really nice community that supports the arts and music.”