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RERUN: Music Man Memories: Students Remember Bob Foucht

Byron "Bob" Foucht gave the gift of music to Swampscott students for three decades.

 

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.

It worked.

"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.

Whisky February 17, 2013 at 01:00 PM
A true lifelong friend who will be missed.
Garrett Baker February 17, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I had him as a teacher in elementary school. Great teacher and a truly great guy.
Scott Winship February 17, 2013 at 01:56 PM
I wish I had gotten to know him.
michael mcclung February 17, 2013 at 04:01 PM
When Mr. Foucht asked me to switch from trumpet to trombone, it was the first time an adult had ever asked a favor of me. It seemed amazing that I could do something *for* him. Later when I added guitar and piano, he was always there with helpful comments or just encouragement, enjoying the fact that I was enjoying the process of becoming a musician. When I got to college, it just seemed normal that the band director (Harvard professor Tom Everett, another trombonist, just retired this week after 40+ years) should know exactly who my high school music teacher was, and speak so highly of him -- Mr. Foucht's reputation and influence extending well beyond the small confines of the Swampscott school system. If I can pass on to my kids even a small fraction of the love of music he gifted me with, I will have lived to be successful indeed -- and hopefully, have done Mr. Foucht proud.
David J. Bondelevitch February 17, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Very nice article. Mr. Foucht will always be remembered by his students.
Gary Merken February 18, 2013 at 01:42 AM
Mr. Foucht was not only a warm, engaging, and encouraging music teacher and band director who welcomed students of all levels and challenged them to reach beyond themselves. He was also a man ahead of his time. He promoted students, whether as section leaders or the exalted position of drum major, based on merit. Lynda Stephens competed for, and was chosen, drum major in the late 1970s, the first girl to hold that leadership position at Swampscott. Claire Bloom was named drum major in 1980. In retrospect, those matter-of-fact decisions helped shape my worldview. Learning how to play the trumpet in weekly lessons at Stanley School, practicing for and marching at every varsity football game for six years, rehearsing for concert band performances in Swampscott and on exchange trips to places like Falls Church, Va. and Cheltenham, England, and playing piano with the stage band in a variety of venues, I spent more time under Mr. Foucht's tutelage than any teacher I've ever had. The lessons went far beyond learning the notes on the page. Lifelong friendships were forged in early-morning practices and windswept football stadiums, in learning to listen to each other, in making music. Making music. What a legacy! Bob Foucht will long be remembered. The world is a better place for his having passed through it.
John Gilberg February 18, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Mr. Foucht was truly a great teacher who inspired me as we listened to famous sax solos in his office after school. He would tell me stories about who he had played with and it was always great when he took out his trombone and joined us. Cold football games and concerts at Berkley. We also enjoyed a good Kelly's Roast Beef on occasion.
Beth Smith March 08, 2013 at 07:34 PM
One of my most memorable days was in 8th grade when Mr. Foucht asked if I'd like to switch from clarinet to baritone saxophone. I was so thrilled and from that moment all through high school I enjoyed playing in jr high band, jr high stage bande, high school band and high school stage band. I remember little else of my high school years -- it was all music, a core group of talented kids and close friends, who remain close to this day. Mr. Foucht knew how to inspire us, pull the very best from us, instill in us a love of music and keep us all safe as we maneuvered our teenage years. I am grateful to have been able to share with Mr. Foucht my son's new venture into music, playing the saxophone and guitar. He had the greatest impact of any teacher in my life and I am forever blessed to have experienced my formative years with such a passionate, giving, gifted man.
Richard W. Fardy April 09, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Mr. Foucht was both my mentor and dear friend in the Aleppo Shriners Brass Band and I had the privilege of serving as his Assistant Conductor. I will always remember his kindness, generosity and musicianship. Richard W. Fardy
Rick Kellerman May 27, 2013 at 01:39 AM
A good man, my friend and mentor, Mr. Foucht helped shaped my life. He always knew what to say and made life interesting in highschool, I am honored to have known him. I always looked forward to seeing him in the many parades we played in...I am still playing and marching...TY Mr. Fought...I will always keep you in my heart...RIP Rick Kellerman

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