A generous donation in memory of

local orchestra leader benefits

music students

For 50 cents on Oct. 24, 1937, you could go to a dance at the Albany Jewish Community Center, pick up your dance card at the door (girls), and hear the sounds of nine sharply dressed young men in tuxedos. You could listen as the guys - on trombone, trumpet, bass fiddle, piano, drums and three saxophones - belted out jazz, swing, ballads and popular songs from the '30s. They were the Lew Rider Orchestra and their leader was playing gigs all around the Capital Region to pay his way through college. Now, more than seven decades later, a scholarship has been established in Rider's name through a gift from his son Tom and Tom's wife Barbara to help SCCC music students pay for their education.

Lew Rider, band leader and saxophone and clarinet player, went on to become Dr. T. Lewis Rider, a well-known Albany pediatrician who was in private practice from 1946 to 1971, first out of the family's home on Washington Avenue and then on N. Allen Street, followed by several years as a physician for the South Colonie School District and New York State's Employee Health Services. His success in the medical field came after he graduated from State Teacher's College in 1936 and Albany Medical College in 1940. He then served three years as a flight surgeon in the United States Army Air Corp.

Whether he was playing at the Rest Ye Inn on Western Avenue in Albany in 1937 (admission was $1.50 per couple) or overseas in a band he formed while in the military, there was one constant in Lew Rider's life: music. And when he came back home from his service to his country and was practicing medicine, there were monthly jam sessions in the Rider's Albany home. The Riders also enjoyed playing together as a family, especially at Christmas time, with Tom and his two brothers Jeff and Steve, mother and father playing a variety of instruments. Dr. Rider continued to play and form several orchestras, including The Unicorns, during his years as a practicing physician until his untimely death in 1979.

"Growing up, I always remember musicians coming in and out of the house," Tom said, as he flipped through a scrapbook meticulously prepared by his mother Miriam, with every invitation to a gig Lew played during the '30s and early '40s from dances at State Teachers College to swanky affairs at the Ten Eyck Ballroom in Albany and Hotel Willard on Lake George. "I would go to bed listening to music being played all the time."

Like his father, Tom, a retired personnel director for the New York State Environmental Conservation Department, has carried a love for music with him from the time he was a young boy. He and Barbara, a homemaker, have audited classes at the College since 2003 and regularly attend concerts at SCCC. They are shown at left near a framed photograph of the Lew Rider Orchestra in the School of Music. "We like jazz and big bands anything that reminds me of what my father used to play," Tom shared, mentioning that two of his father's favorite songs were "Back Home In Indiana" and "Take The A Train." Now the Rider's generous donation of $25,000 to endow a music scholarship will contribute to the education of SCCC students for years to come.

Emotions come as Tom reflects on what his mother, a 1936 graduate of State Teachers College, might have thought of the new scholarship and the positive effects it will hold for SCCC music students. "Because of her appreciation for the importance of education, coupled with my father's love of music, she would be very supportive of what we're doing," he said.

The first $500 scholarship will be presented at the annual Honors Convocation in May 2014. The Niskayuna couple said that they look forward to meeting the first recipient and those in the future. "It's gratifying to be able to see the good that's going to come from the scholarship and to see it appreciated," Tom said. "This recognizes my father's love of music more than anything."

July 2013

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