/Dr. Ramsey Recalls Sachem’s Musical Beginnings

Dr. Ramsey Recalls Sachem’s Musical Beginnings

Original creator of Sachem’s fight song, hired by Sachem in 1955 is now 88 living in Mississippi

As the spirited jingle played loudly in the gymnasium lobby at Sachem High School North one student said, “we have a fight song?”

Another gestured to the television newly mounted on the wall next to the trophy showcases. On the screen are the lyrics to the song that plays on repeat all day long as a reminder to a storied Sachem tradition that began in 1955.

Like many of the original ingredients of Sachem’s storied past – the colors, the logos, the monikers, the slogans – they all started somewhere and were developed by the original founding figures of the school district.

In the case of the fight song, and the alma mater, a smaller more elegant hymn written around the same time, Dr. Tom Ramsey is the innovator. One of Walter Dunham’s original hires in 1955, Dr. Ramsey was Sachem’s first music teacher and then named director of music, a position he held from 1956 through his retirement in 1987.

“It was a good place to work,” said Dr. Ramsey, now 88 and living in his native Mississippi. “I think of Sachem with a great deal of fondness.”

Fresh out of school at Northwestern University, he flew to Long Island for a number of interviews and left with a contract to work in rural Suffolk County at a new up-and-coming educational mecca.

“When I interviewed with Walter Dunham, he said it was a great opportunity to build,” he said. “’I’m looking for a builder’,’ he told me.”

Dunham asked Dr. Ramsey if he would sign a contract if one were given to him that day. Dr. Ramsey agreed and the job was his. Then the massive and quick growth began. A teacher of band, chorus and all general music, he eventually focused completely on his administrative duties about six years into his career at Sachem.

Around that time, he began taking courses at teacher’s college at Columbia University on Saturday’s. He accrued so many credits past his master’s degree that it made sense to complete his doctorate and so by 1964 he was the first educator in Sachem to earn a doctoral degree.

By the early 1980s, Sachem was revered as one of the top music programs in the state. Dr. Ramsey was also responsible for launching Sachem’s marching band, as well as designing the music suites and sectors within Sachem North, which still exist today.

“We had a great opportunity to build and we built it into one of the best around,” he said.

After retiring he and his wife Joanne, who also taught music at Sachem and was later a guidance counselor at Seneca Middle School, moved to Colorado where they resided until she passed away in 2002. As a serious Spanish student, he moved to an expatriate community near Guadalajara, Mexico in 2003 and moved to his current retirement community in Madison, Miss in 2010.

He said he no longer has any connection to Long Island, when, in fact, his spirit and work now live on forever in Sachem thanks to that legendary fight song. It took about five weeks to write some 63 years ago.

“I knew how to compose,” he said. “We were starting all kinds of traditions in those days, so I wrote this and a little piece of Tom Ramsey still lives today. I’m glad it’s still appreciated

“It was a chance for me as a young person to grow with a tremendously growing school district. I picked a good place. Hopefully Walter Dunham feels he picked a good director of music. We loved to watch it grow and it did.”

Sachem Fight Song

Here’s to red, black and gold,

Rally, boys, be strong and bold.

Sachem beat ‘em, Sachem win,

On to victory – RAH RAH RAH!

Here’s to red, black and gold,

It’s a story often told,

Sachem’s rally will begin,

On to victory – RAH RAH. RAH!

Flaming Arrows, steadying your aim,

Hit that bull’s eye, win this game.

Bull’s eye, take another shot,

Let’s give it all we’ve got.

Sachem Alma Mater

Set to the music of “Variations On a Theme by Haydn” by Johannes Brahms

Hail to Alma Mater, we will praise your name forever,

All your sons and daughters pledge you loyalty and honor.

Hail to Sachem, voices bold, loud proclaim red, black and gold.

May your spirit strong remain; Hail, all hail to Sachem.

-Words by Chris R. Vaccaro

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