By Contributing Writers Ella Azria (’25) Lillie Fowler (’25) & Olivia Conley (’25)
As J-DHS had to say goodbye to our beloved Mrs. Quackenbush, a familiar face was welcomed to the building. Eric Toyama has returned to the Jamesville-DeWitt district after four years. During his time away, he filled multiple positions all around the county. However, after hearing the choral teacher position was open here at the high school, he jumped on the opportunity to be back.
Becoming a music teacher takes dedication and hard work, so why did Mr. Toyama decide to go this route in his career? People find inspiration in many different places, but for Toyama, it was his high school chorus teacher. “I remember sitting in my chorus rehearsals thinking that I loved doing this and at some point, I wanted to lead my chorus rehearsals,” he stated. Music is an important part of Mr. Toyama’s life, but even though he continued his passion for music, he also considered a career in chemistry at one point in time, but decided against it when he realized his passion for music. He attended Ithaca College and studied music education, having many teaching jobs ever since.
Mr. Toyama, although beloved at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, has admirers in other districts across the county. This is because of what he calls his “CNY Tour.” His journey across districts began in 2011 at Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School, teaching here for eight years. After this, he taught at Westhill High School and Fayetteville-Manlius High School for a total of four years. Finally, he wound up back at J-DHS, where he found joy and connection with many of the students. “I call this my CNY tour… make sure I get credit for that,” he laughs. Mr. Toyama was missed in his years away from the J-D district and he was welcomed with open arms, ready to start the new year off on a good foot.
Even though this is Mr. Toyama’s first year at the J-D High School, he has very big plans for the music department and hopes to create a very impactful environment for his students. Mr. Toyama stated, “ I want to make a healthy, safe environment just like my music teachers did for me.” He hopes to make an environment where all his students feel excited and welcome to come to 6th period. Coming up in April there will be a choral fest where Mr. Toyama plans to combine the musicals Wicked, The Wiz, and The Wizard of Oz into one large concert in hopes of telling the same story. Mr. Toyama also decided to bring back the group INACHORD from Mrs. Quackenbush’s time at J-D. This group is primarily an acapella group that meets every Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Mr. Toyama puts a lot of his own time and effort into helping grow the music department for the better in hopes to expand it in the future.
Mr. Toyama’s timing is impeccable. The current seniors were the last group to have him as a teacher in middle school, so it seems fitting that he be their teacher for the last year of their high school career. Other grades who heard about him were disappointed when he left the middle school because they didn’t get the opportunity to work with him. As someone who hasn’t gotten to work with Mr. Toyama until this year, Drew Zombek claims “He works with so much intent” when talking of the first impressions he got from him. Even though they move at a fast pace and work hard, he is not “overly critical,” says Rozir Kirkland. He also said, “If you make a mistake Mr. Toyama will gently help you correct it.” All of his students are thrilled to be learning from him and have nothing but good things to say about his teaching. Mrs. Quackenbush left tough shoes to fill, but Mr. Toyama seems to be doing just fine.
Mr. Toyama is praised across the district and county and has impacted many of his students’ lives in a positive light. His teaching will continue to inspire his students just like how he was inspired by his teacher’s lessons. Hopefully, for the next few years, Mr. Toyama will have the opportunity to expand and grow the music department for the better.