There’s more to Roy W. Clare’s retirement than the 90 years this remarkable man has lived or the incredible 57 years he has taught music to middle-schoolers in Williamsville. His long service is testament not just to his passion and devotion, but to leaders of the school district who clearly understand the value that music and the arts play in education.
Clare is retiring at the end of the school year. Having lived nine decades, he has decided that the time has come, though you wouldn’t know it from his description in Thursday’s editions of The News: a spry man who walks briskly, wears sneakers, teaches nine music classes and has a seventh-grade homeroom. Anybody who remembers the hormonal disturbances of seventh-graders knows what he has had to endure. But maybe it also helped to keep him young.
Clare is the kind of teacher who makes an impact on students and, in his case, generations of students. But he is also teaching the kind of class that offers life lessons about the value of persistence, excellence and teamwork. It’s the kind of class that can lead lives to unfold in ways that might otherwise have been shut off. And among the people for whom it does that are students who otherwise would have had no chance to explore what can become a lifelong passion for music.
And that’s only part of the benefit of music education. Clare, also the school’s chorus director, noted he is also subversively teaching his students math, science, history and critical thinking. Yet music is too often viewed as a disposable subject when budgets are tight. So are the other arts. The only non-academic pursuit that routinely seems to evade serious threat is sports, which also offers many life benefits beyond the physical exertion it requires.
In Williamsville, though, music instruction has been going strong for at least 57 years, and it has been in the hands of a master, one who has made an impact. Former students sometimes visit his home over the summer. High school students and graduates drop in just to say hello. He sees other former students when he begins instructing their children.
The district will have a hard time finding someone to duplicate Clare’s shining example, but with its long-term commitment to music, it seems safe to believe that it will come as close as it can. That, at least, must be its goal. It needs to protect the legacy that Clare, with the district’s far-sighted support, has created.
In the meantime, the district should be congratulated for its commitment to music education to date, and other Western New York districts should take note. It makes a difference. Clare is taking his well-deserved retirement now, but his greatest contribution may be in the lessons he has offered about the value of music in the lives of Western New York children. For that, he has earned the thanks and respect of the community.