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Former Students Return to Honor Retiring Band Teacher

After 37 years of teaching in Eastchester’s schools, Doug Zantay couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. 


On May 9, following Greenvale’s spring music concert, some slightly older musicians took the stage, as a large cohort of Zantay’s former students—spanning from his four decades of music education between Eastchester and Hastings—surprised the band teacher with instruments in tow, taking the stage to play one last set with Zantay, who will retire at the end of the school year. 


Conducted by Zantay’s daughter Jazz, now a band teacher herself, the ensemble celebrated the legacy of an educator whose passion for music and humor touched the lives of so many, performing a few upbeat numbers for an exceptionally appreciative audience. 


The surprise, put together by Zantay’s wife Karen and Eastchester alumnus Diane Pisseri, was a logical—yet emotional—capstone to Zantay’s teaching career, and Pisseri said she wasn’t at all surprised to see how many of the teacher’s former students jumped at the chance to show their appreciation. 


“When we started to talk to people, it just became a chain reaction; someone would have numbers of people they went to school with, and it just kind of grew from there,” said Pisseri. “We heard from so many people, and even people who couldn’t make it tonight wanted to share memories, pictures and videos, so this was really a great turnout.”


After months of coordination, the band rehearsed together for the first—and only—time on Wednesday night, something that Jazz Zantay said was a uniquely powerful moment that spoke to exactly how many lives her father had touched.


“It was so incredible to be working with these students who he taught before I was even born,” she said, “It was totally full circle, and it gave me chills when I heard them play together for the first time.” 


She added that her father’s energy and enthusiasm helped her to discover her own love for music, inspiring her to become a music educator as well. 


“I think it comes down to his ability to connect with the kids and have fun; it’s about the music but also sharing life experiences and humor with the students,” said Jazz. “It was always fun, light-hearted, and just to be able to give the gift of music for kids was something that has been so important for him.”


Zantay was visibly taken aback by the surprise and relished the opportunity to join his former charges—many of whom he hadn’t seen in years—on stage, soloing on his saxophone for a delighted audience that included even more well-wishers who turned out for the event.


“I would never, not in a million years, have believed that anyone could drag you back together and get you all back here,” said Zantay. “This is incredible, and I really feel touched by this.”


Jazz added that being a part of the celebratory night and seeing the impact her father has had on the community was nearly overwhelming.


“It’s amazing that people were willing to pick up their instruments, even if they hadn’t played in a while,” she said. “He literally taught me everything I know, and even though it’s strange to think that this era of our life in Eastchester is ending, I’m so proud of him because he’s been my inspiration for everything.”