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BLOG: A jazzy sendoff for a Sandusky music teacher

Tom Jackson • Mar 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Saturday's memorial service for longtime Sandusky music teacher Jeffery Mork had many of the elements you might expect, including moving and funny recollections from Mork's three daughters, Maureen Mork, Adrienne Mork and Melanie Mork. 

But the service for Mork also had an unusual feature: A jazz group, performing a mini-concert of two of his favorite songs.

Mork, 55, died Wednesday after an eight-year struggle with lymphoma. His long career as a music teacher included serving Sandusky Schools from 1984 to 2011, where he especially liked leading jazz bands. He also played saxophone in two local jazz groups. The program handed out for Saturday's service at St. Stephen United Church of Christ featured a saxophone on the cover. Mr. Mork's wife, Karen Mork, is an editor at the Sandusky Register.

The seven-member band formed for Saturday's service included four of Mork's former students: Trombonist Adam Reardon, trombonist Laura Zumbaugh, sax player Justin Hayman and bass player Danny Klohn.

Hayman was one of Mork's favorite students and the family gave him Mork's alto sax, which he played Saturday at the church.

The other three weren't exactly strangers to Mork. Drummer Greg Bauman played in a band with Mork. Guitarist Tim Fleck also taught at the high school, and his two sons played in Mork's bands. Trumpeter Matt Kennedy replaced Mork when Mork retired.

Hayman explained that Mork's daughters reached out to the musicians on Facebook after their dad died.

"We had the band assembled in less than 24 hours," he said.

Many of the musicians had other plans for the weekend and many live out of town. None of that mattered.

"They dropped what they were doing and immediately said yes," Hayman said.

The band had only one rehearsal. But I've listened to a lot of jazz, and I can tell you they sounded fine.

Then again, they knew the material pretty well. "Killer Joe," a jazz standard by Benny Golson that's been recorded on dozens of albums, was a song all of Mork's students knew.

"Anybody who has ever been through the band program in Sandusky has played that song at one time or another," Klohn said. "It's kind of near and dear to us. It was near and dear to him."

Mork's family requested "Summertime," the classic George Gershwin tune. It also was one of the songs Mork's high school bands always played, Reardon said.

Mork's former students in the band all followed in his footsteps. Reardon, 30, for example, became a music teacher himself. He worked alongside Mork at Sandusky High, then took his current job as band director at Margaretta High.

Klohn, 24, is assistant band director for Bryan Schools. Zumbaugh is band and choir director for Edgerton Schools. Hayman is music director for a church in Richmond, Va.

The service also featured a performance by Jeff Wilson, a band director at Huron High School, who played "Amazing Grace" on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Reardon said jazz was Mork's "main thing" and he would have appreciated the music Saturday.

"I know he loved teaching jazz to the students at the high school and the junior high," he said. "I think he would have enjoyed it, especially the two selections."

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