Paul Rosen’s life was filled with music, sailing, and learning. He was always true to himself, and instilled that sentiment into others. Whether it was with his family or the hundreds of students he taught throughout his years at East Meadow High School, Rosen never ceased to share his love for life.
Rosen died on Dec. 30, of complications of a stroke. He was 92. He leaves behind his wife, Susan, his sons David and Peter, from a previous marriage, and Jeremy and Adam, along with nine grandchildren. He is also remembered by many of his students for being a wonderful teacher and chorale director.
“He lived a long time, and you can fit a lot into 92 years, but even in the first half of his life he had done so much,” Adam Rosen said. “After he died, we started going through a lot of his stuff and sharing memories, and I really, for the first time, kind of learned the scope of his impact as a teacher.”
Rosen started teaching at East Meadow High School in 1960. He was known best for directing the senior chorale — a select chorus chosen from those who auditioned. He also taught orchestra, and music, theory and started a glee club. He was a talented musician, and brought all he knew to the students of EMHS.
During his time at the high school, he brought students to sing at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the city’s Town Hall, and NBC’s Today Show. He even arranged for them to perform at the New York State School Music Association’s All State Festival at the Concord Hotel in upstate where they got to record their own vinyl.
Some students of his went on to do great things in the music and entertainment industry, like Neil Miller, who worked as a production stage manager for Radio City Music Hall, director of entertainment for Caesars in Atlantic City, and Universal Studios in Florida, and is now the executive director of entertainment at The Palazzo at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.
“He treated us all like small adults. It wasn’t really a traditional teacher-student relationship which was great, he was extraordinarily dedicated,” Neil Miller, who had Rosen as a director from ’69 to ’72, said. “He was an extraordinary musician. The musical taste that came out his classes that I took with me to these other places, which became the basis of my musical underpinning, that all came from Paul.”
He had a way of making his students want to do the best they could for him, Miller recalled.
“It was an honor to sing for Paul, and to sing with him,” Karen Cirino-Barone, a former student said. “I know that sounds so weird since he was my teacher in high school but it was a privilege really to sing with him, but the best part was that it was a joy to know him.”
Students fondly remember the vinyl that they made during their trip to the Concord, and Cirino-Barone even used it to play for her son to fall asleep at night. Another well-loved memory was singing the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel Messiah, which the chorale sang every year.
“Paul Rosen was probably one of the most beloved teachers that East Meadow High School ever had,” Nancy Widman, a former student said. “He touched every student that he had in his class in a great way. We sang for him.”
Rosen was born in the Bronx in 1930. He was a musician early on, and attended the High School of Music and Art where he auditioned on trumpet. He went on to be a music and education major at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. After his graduation in 1952, he toured with the Robert Shaw Chorale for a year, and sang with the Amato Opera. From 1953 to 1955, he served as a bandsman in the U.S. Army, singing and playing the trumpet.
While teaching at East Meadow, he earned his master’s degree in music education from Columbia University.
He and his wife Susan married in 1967 after meeting three years earlier at East Meadow High School during a theater rehearsal. Susan was there to speak with the drama teacher Bob Huber, because she was friends with his wife
“I didn’t think I’d meet my husband that day,” Susan said. “He was very thoughtful and very bright, and he was not one to blow his own horn, but he really affected a lot of people, and that’s the wonderful thing about being a teacher.”
A savant in and out of the classroom
Rosen resided in Northport for most of his time on Long Island. He loved sailing, and the family owned multiple sail boats throughout the years that they would take out every summer for a few weeks. They raced a boat they kept at the Northport Yacht Club.
“It was only for a couple weeks a summer,” Susan said. “But it’s what we looked forward to all year.”
Rosen even acquired his Captain’s license from the Coast Guard.
“The story goes, his love of the sea began as a very small child riding his tricycle through puddles making waves,” Adam joked. “That’s what I was told.”
He always had a song for everything, Adam said, and would wake the brothers up with a song. Adam also remembers summers where the windows were down and the whole block could hear his parents singing opera.
“Sometimes when you’re a kid, it’s embarrassing, but then it becomes a part of his personality,” he said. “In the middle of a conversation, something would remind him of some lyric of some song that he would start singing or he would make up some songs to fit the moment.”
Always learning, Rosen studied mental health counseling at C.W. Post College, now Long Island University. He went on to study psychotherapy at the Gestalt Center of Long Island in Huntington Station.
“At first, he took classes because he was interested in it,” Susan said. “But he got so interested in it that he decided to get a degree.”
He had his own private practice in Mental Health for roughly 10 years after retiring from EMHS in 1985.
Rosen and Susan moved to Virginia in 1994 after the two retired. They chose Virginia so that they could keep sailing at the Chesapeake Bay. They moved around a few times before settling in Staunton.
He continued to be active, and gave powered-parachute flying, and riding motorcycles a try. “He always said he wanted to try these things before he got old,” Susan joked. “But I think he was already too old to try them.”
Rosen spent his later years writing poetry, according to Susan, and some of them were about making music. “He just loved it,” she said. “He always knew that that was what he wanted to do.”