When our daughter was six years old we enrolled her in Music Train, a beginner group class in recorder, at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, Connecticut. It was taught by Larry Zukof, an accomplished and effective administrator who headed NMS for many years. But it was his joyful interaction with students and their families that we treasure most.

With Larry's patient encouragement, the Music Train beginners learned to control their breath, learned to finger the notes, learned basics of keeping time, began reading music. It was delightful to see their rapid growth as musicians and performers. He deftly managed to get the most from every student, regardless of individual challenges. And from what could be overheard outside the studio space, everyone was having a very good time.

After Music Train ended, our daughter asked to remain with Larry, and for the next eight years she learned more and more about the recorder—soprano, alto, and tenor—and about musicianship. Larry guided her with spirit and humor, and he adapted lessons in response to her musical interests, from Irish folk tunes to the Beatles to early American music. He arranged his lessons so that she regularly had the opportunity to play with other students (some of them also graduates of Music Train). When the school was celebrating its one-hundredth year Larry organized a large recorder ensemble (thirty-plus instruments) and generously allowed the younger students to take part. With Larry's quiet support and flexibility, our daughter grew from a profoundly shy kindergartener into a confident performer. Her relationship with Larry has been an important part of her childhood and education.

--Heidi Downey and Douglas Royalty


Larry was teacher/mentor to our son, Angus, from first grade through to a senior recital as he graduated from high school, so for many, many years and through many stages of development. Three aspects of Larry that blend perfectly made him ideal for Angus but also for many other students.

The first is the knowledge he has of the breadth of recorder music.  Angus was exposed to a huge variety of musical styles from the Renaissance to the late twentieth century.  And Larry understands the variety so well that Angus grew better and more proficient with each style and piece he was exposed to.  Only because Larry took pains to expand his repertoire did Angus have the complete appreciation for styles that he developed in the dozen years the two worked together. An invitation to the Piffaro National Recorder Competition in Angus's junior year in high school and his showing there are a direct result of what Larry taught.

The second is Larry's imagination.  Exposure to variety certainly exemplifies this trait but Larry allowed and even encouraged Angus to try to play the recorder in ways that maybe others had not yet thought of or to transpose pieces that wouldn't normally be for the instrument.  Bird whistles, the Super Mario Brothers game theme, exploring percussive options using the instrument were all "allowed", along with traditional and modern repertoire.

The third is a bit harder to pin down but involves child-like zest for play, both play of an instrument and simple sort of "whee" of enjoyment of the journey.  One had to witness the interaction between full-grown professional and silly boy turning into serious (and yet still silly) musician to completely understand this.  Much of lesson time was conversation- a lot of it about music but also a fair bit of "what if?"  No matter the ages of the participants, the wonder of the new characterized the exploration and this is certainly Larry's creation.

Larry is a great teacher.  The range of what he brings to the table consistently brings out the best in students of all sorts.  He taught the introductory ensemble to the youngest kids for years and he mentored Angus and adults as they tackled complex and diverse compositions and composers.  We can't say enough about what he meant to Angus.

--Sandy and Carla MacMullen 9-18-2015