After 23-year-old Gregg Lee Rickards died of cancer in August, his family gained more of an understanding of how talented a musician he really was.
"We knew he was good. We just didn't know he was that good," said his aunt Patty Collins Sales.
Rickards' friends from the State University of New York at Oneonta, where he studied music, spoke of his abilities with the base guitar — both electric and stand-up. One of his closest friends told his family he would fulfill Rickards' dream of opening up a jazz club on the West Coast.
His family and friends will celebrate his passion and talents with a concert at East Hampton High School on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are requested to support the inaugural Gregg Rickards Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will provide at least $500 to a graduating senior who wants to study music at college.
Rickards, who grew up in Amagansett, graduated East Hampton High School in 2006. The high school jazz band and orchestra, of which he was a member, will perform at the concert. Some of his musician friends will also perform, as part of a band they put together in his honor.
"We really just want to pack the audience," Sales said. An organizer, along with Marilyn Van Scoyoc, the high school music teacher, school board member Liz Pucci, and Michael Clark, who owns Crossroads Music in Amagansett, they are still adding people to the line-up. "It's going to be somwhere between an open mic and jam session," she said.
Rickards was first diagnosed with sarcoma, on his arm, when he was in high school. He underwent surgery, and went into remission for seven years, Sales said. The sarcoma returned and he was diagnosed over the summer, while he was back on the East End working at Schiavoni's in Sag Harbor. Just four weeks later, on Aug. 29, 2012, he died.
Rickards' mother, Teresa Collins Rickards, lives in Amagansett, and his father, Gregg Rickards, lives in East Hampton.
"The community support was phenomenal and it still is," Sales said, adding that the high school's winter concert was dedicated to her nephew. Pucci said the concert also served as a kick-off fundraiser. They collected $700 that night, she said.
"The fact that we're getting this whole ting together is mind boggling," she said.
Tom Bono, a guitarist who also makes custom paints guitars and amplifiers, has donated a guitar for the auction, Sales said. "I've never met the man. I don't even know if he knows my sister. It's just amazing," she said.
If you'd like to sign-up to play in the concert, please call Patty Collins Sales at 516-458-3978.
To make a donation to the Gregg Rickards Memorial Scholarship Fund, you can mail a check to the Greater East Hampton Education Foundation, P.O. Box 4175, East Hampton, NY, 11937. Be sure to note that the donation is in memory of Rickards.
Please remember Gregg Rickards. Will you attend the concert in his memory?