SARATOGA SPRINGS — Maple Avenue Middle School honored longtime band teacher Rose Marie ‘Ro’ Koch on Thursday, hosting a concert at Trombley Auditorium in Koch’s memory.
Koch taught in the district from 1977 to 2008 and passed away in 2009. The concert was highlighted by the sixth-grade band’s performance of “The Gift Forever Ours,” the world premiere of a piece commissioned by Koch’s sister, Lynne Cooke, in her honor.
Jonathan Doyle, music teacher at Maple Avenue Middle School, said he was first taught by Koch at age six, and said the concert was “a good way to honor her memory.”
“She was a sixth-grade band teacher herself, so we just figured that would be a good way to honor her memory and celebrate her life in that regard,” said Doyle.
Doyle said he also took piano and clarinet lessons with Koch. He eventually began working alongside Koch after being hired as a music teacher at Maple Ave in 2003.
“So she was my piano and band teacher for several years, and then in 2003, I came up to interview for a position in the school here, and she was on the committee that was interviewing me,” Doyle said. “She gave me a huge hug when I came in the building, and when I got the job, we were working together.”
Doyle’s experience was just one of “thousands” of students who were influenced by Koch and her love of music. Doyle said Koch taught elementary band lessons, traveling to various elementary schools in the district, before becoming the sixth-grade band teacher at Maple Ave when it originally opened.
Koch established the Saratoga Schools Low Brass Club, and traveled often, visiting more than 40 countries. She was also a passionate Girl Scout leader and volunteer, and was a recipient of the Thanks Badge, the highest volunteer honor in Girl Scouts.
“Easily thousands of kids had her, either as a band teacher or general music teacher,” said Doyle. “She just always had this very friendly and joyful way about her. A great laugh, always encouraging. Just trying to get kids to really have fun with music and really love it.”
He said Koch was remembered by colleagues as being “very generous of spirit and laughter,” saying several retired co-workers returned to attend the concert.
Doyle said students were excited to perform the piece, saying it is “a gorgeous piece of music.”
“The first time I heard it, it was just a computer recording, but I could see the potential in it,” said Doyle. “Once we started playing it with the whole band, and got all the pieces together, it’s a fantastic piece.”
Doyle also stressed that his students worked “really hard” to bring the performance to life.
“They’re very excited about the fact that they are premiering a piece that has never been performed anywhere else in the world,” said Doyle prior to Thursday’s performance. “The whole idea of this world premiere is very exciting for them.”
Doyle said that ultimately, he feels the concert was his way of repaying Koch for helping guide him on his current path.
“If it wasn’t for her pushing me to always be a better musician, and supporting me through college and through my career, I would not be here right now,” Doyle said. “I see this as my culmination of being able to tell her, ‘Thank you so much for giving me an incredible role model.’”