Dr. Robyn Gangi led the Masuk Choir in the show Carmina Burana inside the packed high school auditorium last Thursday night. During the program, he played the piano for outgoing seniors in a show that ended with the song "O'Fortuna". Then Gangi took a final bow to thunderous applause.
Masuk's "Maestro" is retiring after a 21-year-career which included countless shows and class trips to Italy — taking his students right to the music's roots.
After the show, current and former students had arranged a surprise reception for their teacher in the school cafeteria, where he directed them all in one last song (See the Video), then everyone watched a slideshow of memories from Gangi's times at Masuk, while the choir performed for him.
A documentary entitled "Our Maestro" is currently being made on Gangi as a Kickstarter Project.
Robyn Gangi and his wife Jane were emotional throughout the evening.
Jane said, "It's felt like a mixture of a wedding, Christmas ... what's excitement like? Firecrackers. He's had a brilliant career here and it's just full of love."
Jane Gangi saw a number of memorable faces, including Jeff Brennan, a former student of her husband's who used to babysit their son. "He said, 'I have 20 years of gratitude,'" Jane recalled.
As Robyn sat upon a golden colored throne his students brought out for him and greeted a long line of admirers and well-wishers, Jane pointed to one of Robyn's former students who had flown in from San Francisco and another who made the drive from New Jersey.
Ted Stepanoff, a Masuk graduate of 2001, performed in the choir under Gangi, along with his three siblings.
"He made an impact on us," Stepanoff said. "I went to Italy with him. You could tell he really loves the music. He had 350 students and he had a personal relationship with all of them. He had an impact on their lives."
Sarah Scinto, a graduate from the Class of 2009, said, "I was in the chorus. Something that will always stick with me is to always strive for excellence, not perfection, because Dr. Gangi said if you reach perfection, you have to stop."
Stephen Kallas, a Masuk junior, has been in Gangi's choir this year and will be among the first to experience being in the choir without him next year.
"It's amazing," Kallas said. "It's going to be weird without him. Next year's going to be a very big transition. He's leaving huge shoes to fill. There's no way to have a clone for Dr. Gangi. There's no one like him. You'll find close to him, but there's no one like him in the world."