EDUCATOR: His Students Speak

Former John Jay Music Students Praise his Dedication and Inspiration.

                     Former John Jay Music Students Praise his Dedication and Inspiration.

VAL HADDEN KRAUSS: Tribute to her KHS Music teacher Walter Finlayson.

                     ELLIOT GORDON, Class of 1960, Trombone.

“I recall with the warmest of feelings the times spent with your father. With lessons (I was never able to graduate past the average player); with concerts (including his own marches…I still recall the beat); and performing Stravinsky…)”

                                HELEN LAZARRO  (A Colleague’s Wife, not a student)
Wife of Dominic, the Vice Principal at KHS and later Principal at KES. Her son, Bob, played trumpet for Dad and later taught at the school. One day, years after Dad had retired in 1974, he went to the school office–asking to borrow a projector for some personal project at home. By that time the entire office staff was new and did not recognize him or realize his long years of service in the school system. He pointed out the old mailboxes which he had daily opened with his key, but they were not impressed with an old man’s memories.
Well, these good ladies were not about to sign out school equipment to some stranger, when Bob Lazzaro happened to walk in. Dad turned to him in frustration and begged, “For God’s sake, Bob, TELL THEM WHO I AM!” Bob sprang to the rescue so Dad was allowed to borrow the projector, but Helen still remembers with painful disgust the needless humiliation which Dad endured that day. Many years later I donated his oil painting of KES to the school office. Privately I vowed: so they will Always Know Who He Was! The plaque beneath it reads: “WALTER FINLAYSON:- ARTIST–MUSICIAN–EDUCATOR”

                          NINA LENT KELLOGG 

Nina shared her school memories of Dad with me, which included three B/W photos of him as a teenager at the old KHS. He palled around with Sheldon Lent and the attractive Bernardo twins, Rose and Nina. Nina remembered Dad as a teacher at Jobn Jay, although she was not in band herself. After Dad successfully revived the Big Band Era he collaborated with Coach Marty Todd to create a combo PE Class: 40’s Music and Dance. Now Nina loved that class which was easy on participants, since no gym suits were required–just dance in your socks. She was impressed by Dad’s enthusiasm and first-hand knowledge of the jazz greats; the kids learned about bandleaders ,composers and famous instrumentalists and Big Band Singers, while Coach Todd taught them old-time dance steps. It must have been a fun class!

                                  SUSIE MAYER:  Class of 196 confided this Scandalous anecdote while I was at the A&P. She claims she really wanted to play clarinet in the band, but Dad had misgivings about her musical potential. He did not want to come right out and disappoint her by stating the obvious, so he tried another approach–one which would raise eyebrows today and could have resulted in a big flap and possibly a law suit. He gently tried to dissuade her from taking up an instrument by suggesting that the should: “try out for Drum Major–because you have the legs for it!”  (Don’t try that tactic These days!)

        Jean McClellan Reidy (School Librarian told me that each year the faculty presented a Christmas extravaganza at the old KHS, for which the holiday credits ran like this:
Director–Baldy Smith
Art Decoration: Kay Courageous
Script/Story: Jean Reidy
Music: Walt Finlayson
He would arrange new pop tunes for this show: like SILVER BELLS when it first came out.

Virginia Fetscher (Village Librarian) told me that when she was in her 5th grade classroom, Dad entered (I am sure with the teacher’s permission) on a Recruiting tour. He leaned over Virginia, who had never even considered playing in band, and cheerfully inquired:” And you, little girl–what instrument would You like to play?” Now that is what I call being proactive for the Music program!

                   ELLEN SWARTZ REEDER, Flute, Class of 1970.

I loved playing my flute and I loved Mr. Finlayson. He obviously put his heart into his teaching and I remember his energy and his enthusiasm. I also remember his getting exasperated at times, and I felt sorry for him, because students will be students and not all of them had “the calling.”  However, he would move past those moments pretty quickly.  My favorite times in group flute lessons were when none of the other students showed up, so it was just me and Mr. Finlayson. I was a stronger player than the others and when it was just the two of us, we would play duets together that were more challenging. I cherish that memory!

                               BILL KRINKSY,  Music Colleague at John Jay.

I’m going to put together some thoughts on a dear friend, Walt Finlayson.  (His wife, Sylvia, never called him Walt, but always Alan.)  Walt was truly a Renaissance man. He was a fine musician and teacher; he was a first class painter; but what many people may not have known was that he was also a poet. Somewhere in my many stacks of music I have  books for piano pedagogy, published by  G. Schirmer. Walt wrote the music, did the fine art work and wrote the  poems as well.

Walt was also a pragmatist. He wrote for school bands and orchestras because that way his music would be Performed and he could get to hear it. Oh yes, he had the ability to write symphonies and operas– only to gather dust–but that wasn’t for Walt.. .After all these years his music is still in demand.  Yes,  Walt wanted his music to be played, and he was so skilled that the band always sounded its best if we were playing a Walt Finlayson composition or arrangement of some classical piece.

               Members of the”Purple Themes” Dance Band of 1958:

Piano: Rob Evans       String Bass:Tommy Evans      Drums: Mollie Keeler

Trumpet:  Bernie Bartz, George Covey, Bob Ludwig

Trombone:  Brenda Cooper, Elliot Gordon, Rod Covey

Sax:  Tucker Helmes, Bill Curtis, Ronnie Sandt, Gale Finlayson, Jean Schroeder

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *