For more than a quarter century from 1967 to 1993, Ray Vermilya taught in Shelby Schools. In particular he helped numerous Shelby High School students find their voices by teaching vocal music and music theory.
Mr. Vermilya is a native of Columbus, Ohio. From his earliest years, he showed a love and talent for music. He gave his first piano recital at age five and composed his first original composition at age nine. He graduated from Columbus North High School in 1954. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio State University where he sang in the Symphonic Choir. In 1956 he married his high school sweetheart, Linda Jo Way who earned a Ph. T. degree.
Mr. Vermilya’s first teaching position was at Keene Local Schools. He was band and choir director for grades 5-12 in 1960-61. He then moved to Upper Arlington, Ohio as junior high choir director for six years. In the spring of 1967, Dwight Somerville came to Columbus seeking a choir director for Shelby Senior High School. Ray was hired and served for 26 years as Shelby’s Junior and Senior High choir director. He also taught music theory and music appreciation classes.
Mr. Vermilya’s high school choirs earned superior ratings at state competitions for 22 years. Beginning in 1984 he took the Symphonic Choir every three years on a field trip to New York City. There the choir performed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for an evening Mass and attended a Broadway show. He was named in Who’s Who Among American Teachers in 1992 and 1994. He was and remains an Ohio Music Education State Adjudicator. His recommendation and insistence resulted in choral site reading being adopted as a mandatory performance requirement at all Ohio district and state adjudications.
Mr. Vermilya also has directed other choirs. While in Columbus he directed Presbyterian, Community, Episcopalian, Methodist and the Mt. Carmel Hospital Student Nurses Glee Club. In Shelby he directed the First Lutheran Church choir for 20 years.
Every few years he gathered the community together for a Christmas performance of Handel’s “Messiah”.
One of Mr. Vermilya’s enduring legacies is “Stardust”. In 1968 he started the junior high school talent show, using students in every aspect of the production- acts, emcees and crews. “Stardust” enjoyed a run of 24 years under Mr. Vermilya’s direction and continues under the direction of Cindy Swigart.
Mr. Vermilya is known for his red socks. They raise a few eyebrows, take some explaining, and bring back memories for many students. In 2007 Brian Nabors, Shelby High’s current choral music director, initiated the Ray “Red Socks” Vermilya Award. It is given to students who exemplify characteristics Mr. Vermilya taught and lived by: caring, encouraging others, inspiring. Mr. Vermilya says these characteristics were learned from fellow Shelbians.
“He changed so many lives and helped so many kids and, oh yes, he taught us to sing and to love music,” observes an alumna. “Mr. V put in countless hours for many years with the Stardust talent show for junior high kids. Mr. V must have thought it was important to help kids learn to practice and to perform in front of an audience. What memories I have! And now, working in a theater, I thank Mr. V for heading me in that direction. If it hadn’t been for Stardust, most kids would never know what it is like to perform in musical programs. Thank you, Mr. V. You were loved by so many kids, and we still love you!”
The 1974 Shelby Scarlet S yearbook was dedicated to Mr. Vermilya.
He and Linda have been happily married for more than 53 years. They have a son Skip ’77 and a daughter Michelle Vermilya-Hall ’80. Skip and his wife Ellen have four children – Chris, Sammi, Jenna and Joey – and they live in Sylvania, Ohio. Michelle married Joel Hall ’80. They live in Lodi, Ohio in a log home they built.
Mr. Vermilya is a solid Christian and thanks the Lord for all the gifts that he has received and the ability to use them to touch and become a part of so many peoples’ lives.
Nominator: Martha Fort Yarman ’73, Presenters: Skip Vermilya ’77 and Michelle Vermilya Hall ’80.