As the staff accompanist at the Patel Conservatory, Deborah Lynch, or Dee, is always there, in the background, providing the music while the students shine.
But you may not know that, in addition to being our in-house accompanist, Dee does a whole lot more.
An avid singer, dancer and actor, Dee knew she wanted a career in the performing arts since she was 14 years old.
She attended a summer dance program in New York put on by Janis Menken, wife of the now infamous Disney composer Alan Menken.
“Alan was the accompanist for the ballet classes. I would leave dance classes and go find a piano and play the music I’d heard him play in class. Some of the pieces he wrote himself. I can still play them, I still remember them,” said Dee.
Inspired by Menken, “I thought, ‘I want to do that.’ I wanted to be in the performing arts, play piano, dance, act, teach.”
Dee went on to start the first Alan Menken fan club that year, and then accomplish all the other things she set out to do.
She studied theater, dance and voice at Stockton State College where she received her Bachelor of Arts, and was active in musical theater in Richmond, Va. for 25 years as a performer, music director and accompanist.
She joined the Patel Conservatory a little more than a year ago, and not only provides accompaniment wherever needed, but also teaches musical theater and Fundamentals of Music and is the co-director of the junior and senior choirs.
“It’s an advantage and a bit of a luxury to have a full-time accompanist on staff,” said Dee.
Many educational institutions have to contract accompanists externally, and then run into schedule conflicts and may struggle to find someone when needed, she said.
“At any given time, if there’s a need, I’m already here.”
Dee has been the music director for many of our youth theater productions, and is presently accompanying for Kiss Me, Kate.
She also helps oversee the vocal arts program and coordinates Rock School, guitar studies and the jazz quartet.
“The Rock School program is moving even further into the educational realm, promoting more music reading as well as performance,” said Dee.
Teaching the newly added Fundamentals of Music class, she’s been able to reach a wide range of current students who want a deeper understanding of music.
“If you only learn how to play a song or two, you’re limited in what you can do with that,” she said. “We want to make sure all our students have the opportunity to understand the process, as well as the enjoyment of the performance opportunity.”
Part of Dee’s job is to help students figure out which class is the best fit for them.
“We have group guitar lessons ranging from beginner to intermediate level, from young children to high school to adults,” said Dee. “If a student has some experience but doesn’t know where he belongs, he can come get a ‘pass to class’ and see if it’s the right fit.”
She notes that sometimes students opt to start with private lessons to help prepare for auditions for the coming season.
Over the summer, Dee was the music director for Avenue Q, performed by M.A.D. Theater at the Shimberg Playhouse.
Being in the music department at the Patel Conservatory has allowed her to fulfill her passion full-time.
“I look forward to coming to work every day. I love the students. I don’t have a word to explain how much I enjoy them,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful place to work.”