A 34-year Song Will Come To An End

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By Andrea Cabral

Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 20, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Richard Ray, a music teacher at Winnacunnet High School, is seen during one of his students' performances. Ray is retiring at the end of the school year. [Photo by Scott Richardson}

HAMPTON -- Mr. Ray, a music teacher at Winnacunnet High School, will put away his baton at the end of the 2007 school year and sail off into the proverbial retirement sunset.

Richard Ray was born May 5, 1947, in Mineola, N.Y., a small suburb in Long Island, to John and Patricia Ray. When Ray was 11, the family relocated to Topsfield, Mass.

Ever since he was a child, music has been a constant in his life. He credits his father for giving him the gift of singing. During his preschool years, Ray and his older brother, Jack, began singing with their father. Eventually, Ray's two younger brothers, Jim and Bob, joined the group and the five Rays entertained the family with barbershop quartet arrangements.

"I think my dad was the biggest influence in my life relative to music. He showed me how much fun it could be at an early age and inspired me to want to sing. He encouraged us to sing with our church choir, too, which helped my music reading immensely," Ray said.

This, truly, was only the beginning.

Feeling an affinity for music at a young age, Ray joined the elementary school band. He played clarinet and saxophone, and, at home, played the family piano. He moved on to high school where he excelled, specifically in math, science, and, of course, music. He was a member of the concert band, chorus, played saxophone in jazz band, and string bass in the orchestra.

"I think I enjoyed the social aspects of school as much as the academic and, for sure, the music classes were my favorite," Ray said.

He was recognized for his musical talents when chosen to attend the Massachusetts All-State Chorus during his junior and senior years at Masconomet High School.

In June 1964, Ray graduated from high school and that fall, attended the University of New Hampshire.

"Music was my life in college. Although I majored in English Literature, I had more credits in music courses when I graduated," Ray recalled.

In one highlight of his college career, Ray performed a solo in Symphony Hall, Boston, with the UNH Concert Choir.

"At 19 years old, I'm not quite sure I fully appreciated the significance of that experience," Ray confessed. "I guess I was just living in the moment."

Throughout college, Ray collaborated with his band, The Spectras. As the Hampton Beach Casino house band, The Spectras opened for several iconic musicians including The Doors, Janis Joplin and Simon & Garfunkel.

"It was a really fun time. I would have loved to stay with it if I hadn't had to go in the Army after graduation," Ray said.

Ray graduated from UNH in 1968 and soon after was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Fort Ord, a military base near Monterrey, Calif., where he worked as a training officer. He was sent to Vietnam and served as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Army. He returned to the United States in 1970 and continued where he left off, booking gigs with The Spectras while working as the manager of Pizza Hut in Dover.

He returned to school and studied for a Master of Arts in teaching in secondary English and eventually secured an internship with Spaulding High School in Rochester. Ray remained at Spaulding until 1973 and then joined the Winnacunnet High School music department in the fall of that year.

After 21 years of doing what he loved, Ray decided to take a chance and make a change. Still at Winnacunnet, in 1994, he became an assistant principal.

"I was looking for something different after 21 years of teaching music, a different challenge," he said. "I had recently retired from the Army Reserve and I missed the kind of responsibilities I had in the reserves, which were very close to being a principal. There were many similarities.

"(However), I couldn't remain an assistant principal any longer. I wanted to get back to what I had gotten into the business for in the first place -- teaching kids."

After his return to teaching music classes, Ray said he felt like it was his birthday, every day.

Ray's 34 years at Winnacunnet have been filled with hard work, talented students, incredible music and countless memories.

He said it's hard to pick out just a few memories.

"Our production of 'Godspell' in 1989 was special beyond words," he said. "(Winning) the Overall Best Choir at the Festival in Montreal; Chamber Singers performances last year at Disney World; and the men's ballet at faculty shows."

Ray and his wife of 38 years, Candice Allerup Ray, live in North Hampton. The couple has two sons, Thom and Andy, and one daughter, Allison Ray.

Ray expects his retirement to include relaxing, golfing, fishing and traveling. He will remain a member of The Spectras and continue a favorite pastime of writing and recording his own music.

"The great thing about music is that it is an activity that can take on many forms for your whole life," Ray said.

What about substitute teaching at Winnacunnet? Would he consider that option in the future?

"Never say never," Ray advised. "But, a more likely return might be as an adult education instructor teaching a course in the history of "rock n' roll."

Ahh, touché, Mr. Ray, touché.

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