Loved ones remember leader of the band

by Emily Canning-Dean

When thinking back about Jim Roytz, friends, colleagues and students all seem to remember two specific qualities – his passion for music and his passion for his students.

“Jim was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Steve Cocchiola, the current band and orchestra director at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. “He was very sincere and had such an impact on the students. He made the band great, but he also made the kids great.”

“He was so engaging and patient and creative and positive,” said Tricia Astey, a Brecksville-Broadview Heights teacher who graduated from the high school in 1999 and played in the band under Roytz. “He gave his students a lifelong appreciation for music.”

Roytz, 75, passed away in Florida surrounded by his family March 7. He became the band director at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in 1984 where he conducted the marching band, symphonic band, jazz band and the pit orchestra for the drama department. He also taught music theory and appreciation and retired in 2005. During his tenure, his bands won multiple awards at state contests and marching events across the country. Roytz also founded the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Community Band in 1993.

“One of the great things about Jim was his ability to connect with the students,” said Rob Still, a 1986 graduate of Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. “My junior year was the first year Jim became band director. He knew how to encourage kids and watch them grow and become excellent. He elevated students in music and also in life, helping them to become leaders.”

Colleague Chuck Valley said he first met Roytz when he was a student at band camp and Roytz was a camp counselor. The two stayed friends over the years and when Brecksville-Broadview Heights was in need of a choral director, Roytz encouraged Valley to join the school district.

“That was the best move I could have made,” Valley said. “Jim really fought for me and I respected him so much. We were good friends and we worked so well together. Even with all he had on his plate, he helped me to build my choir program.”

Valley said he had the opportunity to visit Roytz in Florida shortly before he died.

“We just sat there and talked and laughed,” he said. “It was a great day.”

Back in the fall, both Valley and Roytz were inducted into the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools’ Gallery of Achievement.

“It was so special and I felt so honored to share the stage with Jim for that program,” Valley said.

During Roytz’s trip back to the community for the induction ceremony, he also had the opportunity to direct the marching band during alumni night as well as the Use2Bees Alumni pep band.

“It was so cool to have Jim out on the field directing the National Anthem,” said Still, who is one of the founding members of the Use2Bees. “We had just shy of 100 people there and it was such an amazing and momentous night.”

“I had stayed in touch with Jim even after graduation and it was so very emotional to see Jim and Chuck in front of us again and think about the legacy they left behind and to remember how passionate they were,” Astey said.

Astey said that during his induction ceremony speech, Roytz imparted one more nugget of wisdom.

“He said ‘do what you love and love what you do. Chances are you are going to live a happy life,’” she said. “That was how Jim lived his life. I’m so glad he got to come back one last time.”

Roytz is survived by his wife of 45 years, Diane, as well as his daughters, Jennifer and Christina. A celebration of his life has already taken place in Florida, but Valley said his loved ones in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights area will likely have a local celebration of life service for Roytz in the near future.

“We don’t have any specific or finalized details yet, but we will make the community aware as those are finalized,” he said. “I think there are so many people who will want to celebrate him. He was so close to his band boosters and students and also the band parents.” ∞

Although he retired in 2005, Jim Roytz directed the marching bank and the alumni band during alumni week last fall. Photo submitted.

Photo (main/above): Jim Roytz was inducted into the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools Gallery of Achievement back in the fall. Photo submitted.