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Shipman's music teachers: Mike Iatauro

Mike Iatauro ran the music department at New Mexico from 1980 until his passing in February 1996. Here is the obituary I gave at his memorial.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" --- W. B. Yeats.

In these terms, Mike Iatauro was a great educator.

The job he did here is not an easy one. Sometimes people would walk into chorus rehearsal and announce, "I've never sung before, but I want to learn." Mike never sent anyone away. He had infinite patience with people just starting out, but at the same time he never stopped pressing the more experienced members always to keep growing and finding new challenges. I've never seen anyone as good as Mike at building a solid musical group out of people at all levels of experience.

I can't really do justice to his long career. I can only talk about the fire he lit in my own life.

I joined the community choir here after twenty years with very little music in my life. I had a fine public-school music education, but once I got out of high school, I tried to push everything else out of my life and concentrate on college and then work. But something was missing all those years, and I never realized what it was until I came back to making music. I had so much fun there that I joined Mike's orchestra and jazz band as well.

It was during that period when my friend Eileen Comstock came up with the idea that I now call Eileen's Law:

You can get a lot more done if you make a lot of music and work hard, than if you just work hard.

So when I stopped looking at music as a distraction and starting treating it as part of a complete life, my whole life started working much better. I didn't think I had much of a voice back then, but Mike encouraged me to get some lessons and develop my talent. Now I'm singing with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. I would never even have dreamed that I could function at that level if it weren't for Mike's constant encouragement.

So, as we gather here to pay tribute to this wonderful man's life, I think back on all the people whose musical fires were stoked by his love of music. Thanks, Mike.

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Last updated: 2004/01/15 01:27:00