A few minutes was all it took to see how much passion Jason Dilliott, Northgate School District band director, had for his job.
“You’d have to be around him for five minutes to understand, in a conversation or watching him in concert ... that the man was very passionate about what he did, and not only passionate for the music, but for the kids and the progress that they made with their music throughout their careers,” said Bryan Kyle, principal of Northgate Middle/High School, which serves students in Bellevue and Avalon.
Mr. Dilliott of Troy Hill, director of Northgate’s marching band and music teacher known as “Mr. D” to students, died Sunday. He was 41.
The cause of death has not been determined.
Mr. Kyle called Mr. Dilliott the “pillar” of his school’s music program.
He directed the school’s marching band and brought students together to form a jazz band called the “Sizzlers,” which performs at school events and often plays in the community.
In addition to directing student music groups, Mr. Dilliott taught instrumental music to elementary students and played in a number of community bands.
He also organized an annual band festival at Northgate, attracting outside groups from near and far.
“I don’t think there was an instrument he didn’t play,” Mr. Kyle said.
Underlying all of Mr. Dilliott’s work for Northgate schools, his friends and family said, was a deep dedication to his students. Mr. Dilliott didn’t just teach his students music — he often joined them onstage at concerts and performed alongside them.
“He’s someone who loved his job, and you could see it in everything he did,” said Karen Ungarino, a friend of Mr. Dilliott’s and a former Northgate band boosters president.
Ms. Ungarino has four children who have been Mr. Dilliott’s students.
He “brought music into our family,” she said.
His marching band students were preparing to leave for their annual August trip to band camp when Mr. Dilliott died Sunday. Instead of departing for camp, students and their families gathered at the high school Sunday night for a candlelight vigil in Mr. Dilliott’s honor.
Mr. Kyle estimated that 300 to 400 people attended, including the full administrative staff of Northgate Middle/High School.
For Mr. Dilliott’s wife, Michele Dilliott, the ceremony was heartwarming.
“Sometimes you don’t realize how many lives somebody touches,” Ms. Dilliott said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Dilliott is survived by his two children, Jacob, 13, and Sarah, 11.
A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today at All Saints Parish, 19 Wilson St., Etna.
Arrangements were by Bock Funeral Home, Shaler.
Madeline R. Conway: email@example.com, 412-263-1714. First Published August 7, 2014 10:49 AM