Above, Lou Lingo listens carefully to Dr. David Stegman during the 2002 Macho Macho Man Dinner. Lingo was known throughout Santa Paula for his efforts with the Santa Paula Elementary School District music program. Photo by Don Johnson

Lou Lingo: SPESD’s beloved Music Man dies suddenly at 59

December 15, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesLou Lingo, Santa Paula’s own Music Man who taught generations of elementary school students how to play, died suddenly on Saturday, December 11, 2004. Lingo, who had been with the Santa Paula Elementary School District for almost 32 years, was 59 years old.“Lou was the only source of music education the kids had,” said Mayor Mary Ann Krause. “If a student doesn’t start music in elementary school, by high school they won’t.”Lingo’s exemplary devotion to the music education of Santa Paula’s children led to two nominations for the prestigious statewide Bravo Award that honors educators for innovation and creativity in arts education.A native of Southern California, Lingo, born March 21, 1945, had an early interest in music and was a noted accordion player while a child. But Lingo switched early on to guitar, although his goal remained to become a scientist.Lingo was not only an accomplished musician – including the trombone and banjo – but also a singer, composer, producer and arranger. Lou’s own tastes were centered more on folk music, and while enrolled in Kansas’ Tabor College he formed a singing duo with his brother, Dave.While at Tabor Lingo met his future wife Charlene, an experienced pianist. After working at a jewelry store to gain an employee discount, the two became engaged and married on December 22, 1969 and have two children, Matt and Kimberly, both teachers.Lingo taught science and English in Columbia for four years and - still devoted to teaching science - upon their return to Southern California he applied at all school districts. Santa Paula Elementary School District soon put Lingo to work creating a music program that he taught at all the district schools, as well as leading the award-winning Isbell Middle School Band.Lingo made sure that his students not only excelled in music, but learned community service, volunteering his Isbell Marching and Jazz bands for functions ranging from the annual Mercer-Prieto VFW Memorial and Veterans Day observances to the Kiwanis Club Citrus and Optimist Club Christmas parades. Under Lingo’s direction the Isbell bands often captured top prizes in competitions.It was during the November 27 Christmas Parade that Lingo initially felt unwell, chest pains sidelining him from marching alongside his band for the entire parade. He passed away at Community Memorial Hospital the day after he underwent a routine heart procedure.“Lou was the epitome of professionalism, dedicated and committed,” said SPESD Director of Special Projects David Luna. “He went over and above the call of duty to get the kids to participate in band,” including coaxing parents through home visits to allow their children to take part in the program. “Children and their parents adored Lou, he had high expectations for the students and himself.”“It’s a great loss to the Santa Paula and the school system,” said Lingo’s longtime friend Dr. David Stegman. “Lou is going to be missed deeply by lots of people.”
Close friends for 30 years, Stegman said Lingo was “Mr. Music, especially of Santa Paula. He was the farm system for the high school, provided all the musicians that eventually wound up in Ed Roina’s marching and jazz bands. Lou was totally dedicated to school music and the band program.”Utilizing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, Lingo “loved to teach and had a special way to motivate kids. He approached life with enthusiasm,” a trait that he passed on to his students and all who knew him.“Lou was one of the finest men I’ve known,” and one of the first friends made by the Stegman family, which remains close to the Lingos. “People have said he is irreplaceable,” for his dedication to students and dogged music program fundraising efforts.Stegman noted that Lingo was also dedicated to the Ventura Missionary Church Worship Ministry for about a decade and that Lou and Charlene both have served the church in various – and often musical - ways.“He’s leaving awfully big shoes to fill,” with his ongoing deep involvement in family, students and the church, said Stegman. “Lou was a wonderful person….”“We had a great time together, a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, a lot of music and a lot of very touching moments,” said Charlene Lingo, who married Lou “almost 35 years ago…and they were great years.”Lingo was “Just enthusiastic, he loved his students and every year he became a better teacher than last year. He had an optimistic outlook and would try to improve and find a better way to do it…that’s what he thought about his teaching,” that students would have lifelong benefit from their involvement with music, become more motivated on many levels.Burial services will be held Thursday, December 16 at 10 a.m. at Santa Paula Cemetery. A Memorial Service will follow at 1 p.m. at Ventura Missionary Church, 500 High Point Dr., Ventura.The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Isbell Middle School Band Program (c/o SPESD, 201 S. Steckel Dr., Santa Paula, CA 93060) or Ventura Missionary Church, 500 High Point Dr. Ventura, 93003.

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