Dr. Michael T. Luzak was known for many things.
He was known for his sayings, huge grin and Russian Christmas music, but mostly the way he touched lives through his passion.
During a celebration of life on Jan. 11 for the longtime music educator and band director, friends, colleagues and former students praised the man who passed away Jan. 5 but left a lasting legacy.
The event was held at Chula Vista’s Jack Tygett Performing Arts Center, coordinated by former student Heather Brown, who made opening remarks and introduced speakers.
“Bono once said, ‘Music can change the world because it can change people.’ We’re all here because one man changed our lives and made a difference,” Brown said.
The ceremony was a mini reunion for approximately 100 students and teachers who hadn’t seen each other in years.
In the background, photos and Facebook comments about Luzak were displayed.
Luzak taught in the Sweetwater Union High School District for 37 years until he retired in 2004 from Chula Vista High School.
Laurie Stroud, 41, who was a humanities and music theory student of Luzak’s in the ’80s, said he was an amazing teacher.
“I had him for three of the four years in high school,” Stroud said. “If you had him (as a teacher), you loved him. He taught us to be ourselves and look for the deeper meaning — not to take things at face value.”
Larry Perondi, former principal at Chula Vista High School, began his comments with a memorable quote Luzak left behind.
“A good opening is like a great handshake — he would always say that,” Perondi said. “He was a great man and I really got to appreciate him and love him as a human being. I’m sure he’s up there leading the parade.”
Sweetwater Union High School District board member Jim Cartmill met Luzak through music educator Ron Bolles.
“One of the things that stood out for me is that he recognized and realized the importance of the performing arts as it related to academic achievement,” Cartmill said.
Bolles spoke about the life lessons he learned from Luzak, including professionalism, pride and stretching the boundaries.
“It wasn’t necessarily about music,” Bolles said of Luzak’s teaching. “It was about life.”
Another former colleague, Mark Dockery, studied under Luzak and is now living and working in Hollywood.
“If we can be a tenth of what he was … and make everyone feel inspired, validated and strong … the world would be a better place,” Dockery said.
Following speaker’s comments, several individuals and groups paid tribute to Luzak through musical talent.
Check donations in Luzak’s memory can be mailed to Chula Vista High School, 820 Fourth Ave., attention SCPA, made payable to the Chula Vista High School Foundation.
Luzak is survived by his three children, Jason, Arron and Amber.