Thunderous applause echoed through Oceanside School No. 8’s auditorium on Nov. 5 during a community tribute for musician and composer Herbert Rothgarber, of Freeport. The Long Island Composers Alliance; the Maldeb Foundation; and the Professor Edgar Lehrman Memorial Foundation for Ethics, Religion, Science and the Arts Inc. organized the event in honor of Rothgarber, who has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
Fellow LICA member Leonard Lehrman, of Valley Stream, said, “He has been told by his doctor he probably has less than a year to live.” The tribute, Lehrman said, was intended to honor the composer “while he is still with us to appreciate it. We wanted to honor him in a way that he could appreciate, and could bring the joy of his music to so many of his friends, family, colleagues and former students.”
Rothgarber was among LICA’s founders and has helped the group to thrive since 1973, Lehrman said, noting, “As a teacher, he has been crucial in keeping the organization on an even keel. He is respected and a beloved figure in the community, all over Long Island, but particularly [in] Freeport and Oceanside.”
Rothgarber was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where he studied music under several violin and piano teachers by the time he was 10. From that early start, he carved out a musical career that included a long tenure as a public school teacher and performances of his works on a number of the world’s best-known stages.
Among his compositions are “The Magic Yo-Yo,” an opera performed at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and later televised by NBC. Others include piano solos, like “Lullaby for a Young Chieftain” and “Drums,” and other musical compositions for violin, viola, cello and string quartet.