The Ballymena community has been left stunnned and saddened by the death of former teacher and musician Lee Mathewson.
Mr Mathewson, who had taught music at Cambridge House, passed away on Tuesday. He was also heavily involved with a number of bands in the local area.
Principal of Cambridge House, Mrs Elma Lutton said she was “very saddened” to hear of his death.
“Many of us will have fond memories of his wonderful wit and tremendous talent,” Mrs Lutton said.
She added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.”
Former Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Timothy Gaston extended his sympathies, and reflected on his time as a pupil under Mr Mathewson’s tutelage.
“I remember him from my Cambridge House days as a real character,” Cllr. Gaston said.
He added: “His was one of the few classes I actually looked forward to.
“It was a real shock to hear of his passing.
“I would like to pass on my sympathies to Mr Mathewson’s family at this sad time.”
Officer and members of Sir George White Memorial Flute Band, Broughshane, of which Mr Mathewson’s son James is a member, have also expressed their sympathies.
Rab Glenholmes, secretary of the band, said: “Lee was more than a playing member of our band, he provided some arrangements and was a guiding voice to our conductor when new music was being looked at.
“Although he hadn’t played with us for the last few years he was still providing that guidance whenever he could.
“Spells in hospital over those few years did not deter him and it was not unusual to find his bed surrounded by music scores instead of grapes and magazines.
“He will be a big loss to our band but thankfully his son James has joined the band in the past year and is showing a similar passion for marching band music to that of his late father.”Tributes have also been paid by Ballymena Young Conquerors Flute Band, which Mr Mathewson had also been a member of.
A spokesperson posted on the band’s Facebook page: “The band are deeply saddened by the sudden death of their esteemed member and more importantly, dear friend Lee.”
Former pupil Taylor Ross, recounted the occasion when he entered the 2005 BBC Young Composer of the Year competition during his final months in A Level at Cambridge House.
Taylor said: “I had been working on the composition for the past year as part of my music A Level course and it was Lee who encouraged me to enter it into the BBC Young Composer Competition.
“It had to be a full symphonic score in three movements which lasted under 7 minutes; and so Lee helped me develop the material over the course of the year in his usual manner by not telling me what to write but simply putting ideas into my mind and allowing space for them to mature.
“As it turned out, I was placed runner up in the UK-wide competition with a prize of a composition workshop in London and two tickets to the Saturday evening prom at the Albert Hall.
“Needless to say, Lee and I embarked on what was my first trip to London in July 2005 creating memories that will last a lifetime. Thanks for everything Lee.”
Mr Mathewson also guided two pupils to consecutive BBC NI Young Musician of the Year awards with flautist Stephen Rankin in 2009 and again in 2010 with percussionist Craig Lutton.