By Mary Ann Bourbeau
RED BANK – It’s common for kids to take music lessons and dream of becoming a rock star. Then reality sets in and most of those kids become adults with so-called “real jobs.” Most abandon their instruments because of time and family constraints. But some continue to play and sharpen their skills.
That is the case with Dr. Lawrence Sykoff, Ed.D., the former headmaster at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls. When he was young, Sykoff used to practice his guitar every day after school, before he did his homework.
“I used to follow The Beatles, Bob Dylan and other artists of the time,” he said. “I thought I was going to grow up and become a great folk singer.”
Instead, Sykoff earned a doctorate in education and spent 20 years at Ranney before retiring in 2013 to start a management consultant practice. But he never gave up the guitar, and even sat in at times with Ranney’s jazz band.
“It’s great for a school leader to be musical,” said the Freehold resident. “We developed an outstanding performing arts program. We even brought the school orchestra and chorus to perform at Carnegie Hall. I love music, but I never had that kind of opportunity. These kids were so inspired by being there. It was something they will remember forever.”
Sykoff found his own opportunity about five years ago during a Ranney School trip to Paris, where he met a parent chaperone named David Lessing. He discovered that Lessing, an orthopedic surgeon, was a bass player. The men realized they had a friend in common, dermatologist Kenneth Grossman, who played drums.
“We decided to get together and jam,” Sykoff said. “It was great fun.”
This went on for about a year. One day, interventional pain management specialist Scott Woska sat in on keyboards, and that was the tipping point.
“He was a professionally trained musician and he was excellent,” Sykoff said. “He had even written a symphony. With his guidance and direction, we really had the makings of a band.”
They brought in a friend, vocalist Erin Patrick, and named themselves the Docs of Rock. When veterinarian Kristin Scott joined in on vocals, they realized they had all the components they needed. Their first gig was at a friend’s house, and not only did they get a huge turnout, but they gained enough confidence to book a show at The Downtown in Red Bank. Inspired by the charitable works of Tim McLoone and his Holiday Express band, they decided the proceeds would be given to a local organizations that help the needy.
“From the very beginning, we have approached our music with a benevolent spirit,” Sykoff said. “Our primary objective is to give back to the community, and to have fun while we’re doing it.”
Brian Incremona, M.D., an internist, is the latest doc to join the band, which plays a variety of music including the Four Seasons, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, One Republic and a Motown medley.
“There’s something for everyone,” Sykoff said. “We want to get people out on the dance floor.”
To date, the Docs of Rock have raised more than $50,000 for area charities such as Lunch Break and the Parker Family Health Center.
“I feel like we’re making a difference,” Sykoff said. “There are a lot of charities with limited budgets and they need as much help as they can get. If we can combine our passion for music and help the community at the same time, it’s a win-win. I feel like my dream has been fulfilled because I’m a musician and I’m also helping others.”
The Docs of Rock will play a benefit performance at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 24 at The Downtown in Red Bank to raise money for Family & Children’s Service (FCS), the oldest nonprofit social service agency in Monmouth County. Vocalist Nicole Cocco will join in for this performance.
“I used to be on the Board of Trustees (at FCS) and I got a close look at the services they provide, particularly in counseling families and isolated seniors,” Sykoff said. “It’s an organization that has a broad reach. They help people of all ages. I really admire the work they do.”
In its 106-year history, FCS has provided support to multiple at-risk populations, including Adult Protective Services, Statewide Respite Care, Home Care Services and Homecare Grant Assistance.
“FCS has been around for more than a century, but some people may not be aware of the types of programs and services we offer,” said FCS Board Member Debbie O’Donoghue. “This is a great way for people to get to know us in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We invite the community to join us for what promises to be a fun and entertaining night.”
Funds raised at this performance will benefit Operation Sleighbells, FCS’s holiday gift-giving program, which last year served more than 1,600 area children and their families.
A $20 donation is suggested at the door. The evening will also include a 50/50 raffle and a live auction. For more information, call Diane Gribbon at 732-222-9111 ext. 134 or visit www.fcsmonmouth.org.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MaryAnnBourbeau.