Flash mob makes musical magic in honor of retired Shelton teacher

Photo of Brian Gioiele

Lee Walkup left quite an impression on his students.

To show their appreciation, dozens of his former students joined Walkup — who spent more than three decades instructing music in Shelton public schools before retiring some 20 years ago — in the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford on Saturday for a flash mob celebration.

“I had no inkling of an idea that the event today would be so special,” Walkup said. “I was blown over by the love from everyone at the mall. Please know that I feel the same for each and every one there today. This was one of the most special days of my life.”

Walkup thanked Quinn, adding that “I’m so glad you talked me into it.

“The amazing thing to me, is that all those people went to different elementary schools, and many of them didn’t even know each other,” Walkup added, “but they all had the same music in common. What a beautiful thing.”

Organized by William Quinn, the flash mob belted out Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” and Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” both popular hits Walkup sang with students.

The piano, which has become a staple in the mall had been, unknown to Quinn, removed, but the group improvised, and Walkup took up his guitar, making the gathering even more special for those in attendance.

Quinn organized the event from his home in Kentucky and flew in earlier this week. He was joined by former students from throughout the country coming back to gather and honor Walkup for all he did to cultivate the love of music for Shelton students.

A Facebook page — which stood at more than 450 friends as of Saturday’s performance — was established about the event so Walkup’s past students could connect and share memories as well as share thoughts on the flash mob event.

“I really don’t think Mr. Walkup realizes what an impact he had on a lot of us in grade school,” the page reads, “how much we really did enjoy going to music class and will never forget it.”

Walkup, along with partner, fellow musician and retired Wallingford schools music director Fred Rossomando, founded Hamden-based Grace Recording Studio, a company that produces audio and video-cassettes, compact discs, and music productions.

The pair had also been appointed co-directors of the Great Connecticut Jazz Fest’s Horns for Kids, a program that provides instruments, scholarships, and instruction to school-age children.

Walkup studied clarinet with Herbert Blayman of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, William Klinger of the Miami Philharmonic and has played under composer Aaron Copland. In the equally serious world of commercial production, he is a two-time winner of the American Song Festival, appeared on the first New York Songwriter's Showcase, and has scored for films, radio and television commercials.