Berklee Today

Final Cadence

  John LaPorta
  John LaPorta

Nicholas Cavas '49 of Delray Beach, FL, died on January 24. He was 75. A trombonist, Cavas was born in Providence, RI, and began his musical career in 1944. He worked as a professional musician and real estate broker. Most recently he played with big bands in West Palm Beach and on cruise ships. Cavas leaves his wife, Efthimia.

Donald Menzies '70 of Swampscott, MA, died suddenly at home on February 8. He was 55. Menzies earned his degree in music educaton at Berklee and had served as band director in Wilmington, MA, and later in Chelsea. A drummer, he performed with several local bands including the Marblehead Pipes & Drums. He served as the president of the Chelsea Teachers Union before opening Kennedy Studios in Swampscott, where he displayed his paintings and conducted art classes. Menzies leaves his wife, Christine, son Michael, and daughter Kathleen.

Richard Rivest '70 of Chicopee, MA, died on January 28. He was 55. Rivest had been a musician and teacher for most of his professional life. He was employed at Jerry's Music Shop in South Hadley, MA. He leaves his daughter Jill Rys and two grandchildren.

Gary Fournier '71 of Winchendon, MA, died on March 10 at home after an illness. He was 53. Most recently, he had worked as a sales associate at MCM Furniture & Appliances in Leominster, MA.

Stephen Nahan of Newport, RI, died October 16, 2003 at Rhode Island Hospital after a brief illness. He was 45. A guitarist, Nahan worked as a professional musician.

Roberto Ocasio '78 of Cleveland, OH, died January 31 after a car accident. He was 49. Ocasio graduated from Berklee with a bachelor's degree in composition and arranging. He formed the band Latin Jazz Project with which he played extensively. He often played for charitable fundraisers and shared his knowledge of Latin music with students at schools, universities, and community programs. He is survived by his wife Evelyn; daughters Lisette and Alicia; and a granddaughter.

David Friedman '86 of Watervliet, NY, died unexpectedly on January 5 in Troy, NY. He was 40. A trumpeter, Friedman earned his diploma in professional music at Berklee. He was a founding member of the Empire Jazz Orchestra and played with several local bands. Friedman leaves his wife, Elizabeth.

Stefan Schultz '98 of Houston, TX, died March 23. He was 27. Schultz was a gifted guitarist and had played in Texas and New York. He leaves his son John Frederick and his companion Patricia Carranza.

Professor emeritus John LaPorta of Sarasota, FL, died on May 12 while recovering from a stroke. He was 84. A widely respected clarinetist, arranger, composer, and jazz educator, LaPorta taught at Berklee for 35 years and at National Summer Band Camps for 25 years. In his lengthy career, he worked with Woody Herman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis, to name a few. LaPorta was the founding chair of Berklee's original Instrumental Performance Department and a founding member of the National Association for Jazz Education (now IAJE). In 2001, LaPorta wrote his autobiography, Playing It by Ear for Cadence Jazz Books. He leaves his wife, Virginia; daughters Karen, Donna, and Jeanette; and son John.

Word has reached us that Dr. Robert M. Lacey of Deerfield Beach, FL, passed away on February 5 after a battle with cancer. Lacey had formerly served as the chair of Berklee's Music Education Department until his retirement in 1981. After retiring, Lacey founded and conducted the popular Deerfield Beach Pops Orchestra.