You can take the girl out of the music program, but you can’t take the music out of the girl.
Carmen LaBoy, the longtime music director at Columbus High School, directed her final music concert on Friday, June 1.
But that won’t be the end of her musical career.
The event was as much a Thank You as it was a send off for LaBoy, who will be retiring after 27 years of dedication to the school.
The concert featured performances by the Christopher Columbus High School alumni concert and jazz bands, as well as guest performers from the teacher’s past.
“I had many alumni that came and played, but also that just came to watch. It was magical and amazing to see, after so many years, kids that graduated 24 years ago.”
LaBoy began her musical career at an early age, taking piano lessons at age nine in her hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico, along with her three siblings.
LaBoy said her parents were passionate about the arts and culture, and made it a priority for their family, no matter the cost.
At age of 12, LaBoy joined the Escuela Libre de Música, a school that was free for Puerto Ricans who gained entrance by taking a music aptitude test.
There she learned how to play the saxophone and violoncello and played in the school’s orchestra.
At 16, she began playing with local bands around the island.
“My father always said as long as he knew the head of the band, I could play with them,” she joked.
After high school, received her B.A. in music from the Inter-American University in San German, coming to the U.S. in 1984 when she was 24 years old.
She received her masters degree in Music Education from Lehman College with a license in orchestra music.
Laboy started teaching general music at Columbus in 1985.
“Then the band coordinator left and my supervisor wanted to give me a chance so she let me direct the band. At that time there were only two bands, currently we have five.”
“I really liked teaching the kids and I really liked what I was doing, she said. “It’s really a service you are doing for them.”
Laboy, now 55 and living in Rockland County, said while she loves the high school and the Bronx, she has no regrets about retiring, as will continue to freelance with different bands around the city.
“It’s just my time,” she said. “Time to step down and let some younger people with more energy and different ideas take over.”
Going forward, Laboy said she hopes to still give private lessons to those who love music as much as she does and to travel more.
“Most people see retirement as the end of their life but it doesn’t have to be like that, it’s just a different stage of life,” Laboy said. “I’ve loved every minute of my career, I don’t regret anything and I wouldn’t change anything. I always felt the Bronx was where I needed to be.”
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394