Local musicians remember jazz great who created 'Schoolhouse Rock'

EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WOLF) -- Educational tunes like the ones in Schoolhouse Rock were a staple of many people’s childhoods.

But many may not know the man behind the music – Bob Dorough. He served as musical director for the series.

The 94-year-old died of natural causes at his home in Mount Bethel, Northampton County Monday.

“I grew up listening to Schoolhouse Rock of course, and he was responsible for that. And I knew about Schoolhouse Rock before I knew about Bob, so I kind of had a respect or I was excited about that first and then when I met him you know, you put two things together and like “oh that’s the guy!”

Matt Vashlishan is the coordinator of East Stroudsburg University’s jazz collection.

He says he first met Dorough when he was a 16-year-old growing up in the Poconos.

“He was a true master of his craft, both vocals, composing, playing piano, and just showmanship. And he was someone that was very open, very kind, very generous, with his knowledge, with his time, with everything,” Vashlishan said.

Dorough moved to Pennsylvania in the 1960s.

Though he traveled often for his music, he established roots in the Poconos, teaching classes and also receiving an honorary doctorate at ESU.

He also frequently performed at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap and gave newcomers pointers.

“When I came in, I was an old man, I was learning jazz and Bob was very gracious and would sit down with me and show me chord changes and talk to me about how to improve my music. Its very rare that you find someone at the very top of their field and they’ll give you so much of themselves and invest so much in you,” T. Storm Heter, a professor at ESU and local jazz musician, said.

Dorough will certainly be remembered for his contributions to music, including collaborations with jazz great Miles Davis.

But those who knew him say they’ll be looking back on much more than just that.

“I mean, we’re talking about him now and I’m laughing. So I think that is going to live on and I hope it does because honestly, there’s not many people like that in the world,” Vashlishan said.

Services for Dorough are being planned for next Monday.

The Watergap Jazz Orchestra is also planning a musical tribute for him at the Deer Head Inn that evening.

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