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Longtime Hart district band director dies

Posted: September 13, 2013 7:29 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2013 7:29 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - Walter Lawrence “Larry” Thornton, beloved band teacher at Hart High School for two decades, died earlier this month after a battle with cancer.

Thornton died Sept. 5 at the age of 81.

Known to some of his students as “Uncle Larry,” Thornton taught at Hart High until 1989. A trumpet player himself, he taught hundreds of students, including Glen Marhevka, who went on to be the trumpet player for the band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Hart High School Principal Collyn Nielsen said Friday he can see the impact Thornton has left on the school.

“From what I know, Larry Thornton was a phenomenal instructor, and his impact is still felt decades later,” Nielsen said. “His passing is a loss for all of us.”

Nielsen also credited Thornton with helping solidify Hart’s musical reputation.

“Larry Thornton was a bit before my time, but it was his tenure at Hart High School that laid the foundation for our successful arts program,” Nielsen said.

“His efforts helped to set the expectations for future generations of Hart musicians, who have gone on to win nine consecutive state marching band titles and garner many other awards and recognition throughout years.”

Thornton was beloved by his students, some of whom created an appreciation society called “Mr. Thornton’s Opus,” an homage to the film “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” which centered around a high school band director.

One student who remembered Thornton fondly was Linda Borza, who graduated from Hart in 1974.

“Mr. Thornton was the person who provided us a safe place to be with friends and learn music and make music a part of our lives,” Borza said.

Borza, who works in the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, also said Thornton inspired her to go into the education field.

“He was a man who loved his students and loved his music and wanted to make a difference in children’s lives,” Borza said.

Memorial services for Thornton are scheduled for Sept. 28 at the Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary in Santa Clarita.
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