One of Chris Jay's fondest memories of his former high school English teacher Paul Mathis was when Mathis told a TV reporter Jay was meant for stardom.
"A news reporter went to the school and did a quick interview with him about me and he said, 'I always knew he'd make it big; there was just something,'" said Jay, a Cape May native and the lead vocalist of the California-based band Army of Freshmen. "To have that on film, to have someone believe in you, someone who you've looked up to all your life and strived to make proud, that meant the world to me."
Mathis, who was an English teacher and theater director at Lower Cape May Regional High School for 38 years, died of cancer June 17. Before he died, Jay and several other LCMR alumni - many of whom Mathis also had inspired - organized a tribute concert for their beloved teacher.
"We knew he didn't have a lot of time, so we wanted to hold this show as a show of appreciation for all that he did for us, all that he taught us," Jay said. "He was one of those teachers - and I know people say this a lot about teachers - but he was (one of) those one-in-a-million teachers that had a profound effect on people's lives. He changed lives, he exposed his students to the world around them and showed them they could be a part of it. They didn't have to sit back and watch. He was the definition of inspiration. This. Was. That. Guy."
Mathis died before "The Mr. Mathis Concert," which is set for 6 p.m. July 13. But the show must go on, Jay said.
"He would want the show to go on. If this was for someone else, he would be the one working the hardest," Jay said. "This will still be a night of celebration, appreciation, love and good vibes."
Also performing will be LCMR alumnus Adam McDonough, a singer/ songwriter based in New York, Stellar Mojo, a South Jersey band that features some LCMR alumni, Old School, an all-teacher band featuring some of Mathis' closest friends, with a guest appearance by Jeff Coon, an LCMR alumnus and profession theater actor.
Concert proceeds will benefit Mathis' family to cover funeral expenses, as well as the Love of Linda Cancer Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for Cape May County cancer patients.
Jay said the fact that Mathis knew this concert was happening before he died makes it even more special.
"He knew we were doing it, and he had the opportunity to reflect on how much he was loved and appreciated by his students," he said. "I've heard from others that when he first found out about the concert he was extremely emotional and honored."
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
What: Concert for Mr. Mathis, a longtime Lower Cape May Regional High School teacher who recently died
When: July 13. Doors open at 5 p.m., show starts at 6 p.m.
Where: Paul W. Schmidtchen Theatre, Lower Cape May Regional High School, 697 Route 9, Cape May
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children and students. Advance tickets are available at mathisconcert.com, in person at Mr. J's Music Shop, 201 Townbank Road, North Cape May, or by calling 609-886-4646.
More info: The event is sponsored by TRI-M Music Honor Society. Donations, as well as raffle prizes, are appreciated. Call Mr. J's Music Shop at 609-886-4646 for more information. Proceeds to benefit the Mathis Family and the Love of Linda Cancer Fund.