On a warm evening this week in the courtyard of Lower Merion High School, old friends gathered to celebrate a memorable student, talented musician and great friend.
Josh Sack, a 2004 LMHS graduate, passed away in May 2008 after an nine-month battle with leukemia. This past Wednesday, a music room at LMHS bearing Josh's name was dedicated and a fund was established in his honor, to support music students for years to come.
"This is overwhelming—it's amazing to see so many people here for this very, very special occasion," began Doug Young, Josh's cousin and Lower Merion School District's director of school and community relations, as he surveyed a full courtyard Wednesday night.
Josh, who started drumming at age 8, "was an extraordinary person and an amazingly talented musician," Young said. LMHS music director Tom Elliot described him as "one of the most mature people I've ever known, and an incredible talent."
After graduating LMHS, Josh attended Berklee College of Music on scholarship before leaving to tour with his band The Brakes. He was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in August 2007, but it didn't stop him from playing with his band as often as he could. Josh, a musician with "an acerbic wit, sardonic irreverence, and love of life," died in May 2008.
Josh's parents David and Joan Sack recently donated $15,000 to LMHS—the place where many of Josh's friends and musical connections were made—to establish a fund in Josh’s name. The fund will support Maestro the Lion’s after school music program and help offset the cost of instruments and music programs for students in need, benefiting music students for years to come.
Eight fledgling musicians who participate in the Maestro the Lion after school program at Bethel AME Church played a few songs for those in attendance.
"Your son's spirit will live on through the opportunities that have been made available to these young people," Rev. Albert Johnson of Bethel AME Church said as he thanked the Sack family.
Afterwards, Josh's band The Brakes took the stage, reunited to celebrate their friend and brother.
And finally, with friends, family and community around them, David and Joan Sack cut the ribbon on the new Joshua Sack Music Laboratory, which will be used for music composition and production by current and future Lower Merion High School students.
A black lacquer plaque affixed to the wall by the lab's door will likely be read by the Lower Merion students who use the lab—many of whom are more than 10 years Josh's junior.
The plaque includes a photo of Josh at his drums and shares a few facets of his personality.
"... Despite his extraordinary gifts, Josh was rarely self-congratulatory," the plaque reads in part. "Undoubtedly, he'd be uncomfortable with his name memorialized in this room and, God knows, he'd be rolling his eyes in sarcastic disapproval... 'What the hell?'"
"Sorry, Josh," it reads. "You earned this."