The late Byron “Bob” Foucht, 76, formed a pipeline for kids to play — and pursue careers in — music.
The Swampscott music teacher formed personal connections, inspiring kids to apply themselves and have fun, said former students.
He inspired students for the three decades he taught music in town.
Swampscott’s Michael McClung says Bob Foucht loved music, kids and giving them the gift of being able to play music.
“He knew that high school students have a lot of other things to worry about, not just band practice,” Michael said. “But somehow he made that the most important thing, the thing you looked forward to all day.”
in the 1970s, 80s and 90s Bob Foucht taught instruments to students from grade school on up and was director for jazz, marching and concert bands.
He was a big, bearded man with a raspy voice who liked to laugh and played trombone.
In turns, his former students described him as Santa Claus-like, easy-going, avuncular, a Mr Holland — from the 1995 movie Mr Holland's Opus.
He gained kids’ respect and attention without yelling, at least not often, though he let them know if they were not practicing enough or taking music seriously.
David Bondelevitch first met Mr. Foucht when David was a fourth grader, taking trumpet lessons from him in the Stanley School basement.
Mr. Foucht inspired him to practice and to pursue composition and arranging, avenues that he would follow at Berklee School of Music and develop, leading to a career in music.
In his high school years, Swampscott had a very small marching band. The numbers were so few that their marching pattern was limited to marching on and off the field at football games.
But they had good players in each section and did not feel embarrassed taking the field, David said.
At school students would gravitate to their teacher’s music room, heading there during study hall to listen, learn and talk music in a relaxed setting.
Janet Fischer moved to Swampscott in the middle of 9th grade and joined the band Day One, playing saxophone.
The band bonded, playing in the cold and the rain, traveling to concerts and learning from Mr. Foucht.
“He motivated and mentored a generation of aspiring musicians,” Janet said. “There were some really talented kids, and some have continued with careers in music, like David Bondelevitch, who has won an Emmy, and Lynda Stephens and Mark Wolinski who still perform locally in Underwater Airport and Jazz Navigators respectively.”
As a Hadley Elementary School student, Mark “Whisky” Wolinski's first impression of Mr. Foucht was that he was a big, slightly scary guy. But Whisky soon learned that his teacher was a truly nice guy.
"Always encouraging, never harsh or demeaning," he said.
Over the years Bob Foucht put up with a lot of shenanigans but got the kids to play and care about playing.
“He didn't treat us like little bratty kids, he treated - and talked to us - like fellow musicians,” Whisky said.
The playing was about fun, not competition.
"I have no clue what the statistics are, but what I think is a surprising number of folks who were in band from those days actually went into the music (or related) business for some period of their careers, and I'm still close with several who still are,” he said.
The relationships and fondness for music endure.
As do the students' fond memories of Mr. Foucht.