UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 26, Lynch rescinded his resignation.
Erik Lynch, who has been the director of bands at Verona High School for almost 20 years, announced today that he is leaving VHS to pursue doctoral studies in music education at Indiana University.
“My time in Verona has been filled with unprecedented musical performances from Carnegie Hall to Disney, but most importantly, building relationships that will last a lifetime,” Lynch wrote in an email to band parents and colleagues. “I know these memories will stay with me until my last breath. Simply stated, I am a better person because of the warmth, love, and the humanity of the Verona community.”
That resonates deeply with Kristin Shea, the current president of the Verona Music Parents Association (VMPA). “I’ve met a handful of teachers in my life who quite obviously care as much about the kids as he does,” she says. “The kids always come first with him.”
“I’m very happy for him and I’m glad he has the opportunity to further his education in a top notch program,” Shea adds. “He will be missed. He’s done amazing things for the music program at VHS and the district as a whole. I assured him when we first spoke about the possibility of his going out of state for his PhD that we would find a way to carry on the tradition of musical excellence at Verona High School.”
In a music department that has long been known for high-energy leaders, Lynch stood out. One of his first concerts in Verona had a “Star Wars” theme and Lynch conducted with a light saber while wearing a Darth Vader mask. Responsible for both concert band and marching band, Lynch evolved the Marching Maroon & White from a military-style unit to a format that incorporated classical music and non-linear movement, with theatrical props that an army of band parents moved on and off the field. The past year, he took his quest to reshape the classic marching band competition statewide, creating the New Jersey Marching Band Directors Association (NJMBDA).
“He is one of the most passionate people I know,” says Nicholas Licitra, a former VHS tuba player who majored in music and marketing at TCNJ. “He held the school’s success and reputation at the most veracious standards. Day in and day out, he shot for the moon, knowing the kids were sure to land among the stars. Erik is a clear contributor to the professional I am today.”
Several of Lynch’s students have gone on to careers as professional musicians, including Dan Egan (VHS’10) and Skyler Fortgang (VHS ’15). “I wouldn’t have the career I have today without him as my educator,” says Fortgang, who works in New York City. “The skills I learned from him gave me an invaluable head start, and I’ll always be grateful for the things I learned from him.” Lynch stayed in Verona long enough to see two of his former students become his colleagues. Brian Michalowski (VHS ’05) directs the White, Maroon and Jazz bands at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School and Paul Salierno (VHS ’12) teaches at Forest and Laning elementary schools.
“The Verona High School instrumental music program owes its excellence to Erik Lynch,” says Laura Fortgang, a past president of the VMPA. “I hope the caliber remains high without him. I hope he knows he’s touched many lives for the better and I wish him the best in this next chapter.”
Beth Smillie, another past VMPA president, echoes that sentiment. “Erik is very dear to me,” she says. “I’ve known Erik for over 18 years now and have enjoyed many years of friendship with him. I’m very grateful to him for all that he has done for the Verona music program, all of the students, families and especially my own kids. I’m very happy for him as he starts this new exciting chapter.”