As a baritone, Wayne Netherby sings harmony in the St. Damien Parish Choir. “Harmony always makes the melody sound better,” he explained. “And what better way to witness to the Lord than to sing in the choir?” God and music have been creating harmony in Wayne’s life since his youth.
As a teenager, Wayne knew he loved playing the horn. “It was the one thing I was really good at,” he explained. Also as a teenager he experienced the joy of an epiphany. “When I was sixteen, God hit me in the head and said I exist,” Wayne recalled. Still it would take nearly ten more years before he converted fully to the Catholic faith. What helped in that journey? Music.
As a music education major in college, Wayne was immersed in classical genres, including masses, composed by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and others. “I may have ended up knowing more about the mass than some of the people going to church,” he guessed. Then, after graduation, he was hired as band director for Msgr. Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River. “That’s when I realized that this was the way to go, and I decided to embrace the Catholic faith,” he said. He was confirmed in 1976 at the age of 25.
Wayne is currently the general music education teacher for Weymouth and Estell Manor schools, where he also teaches vocal music and directs a choir. He knows that music training enhances his students’ overall capacity for learning. “The neurological studies show how playing an instrument engages both sides of the brain,” he explained. “Learning music strengthens the connections between brain cells,” he continued. Wayne brings his joyous spirit into the classroom. “God filled me with unending optimism,” he said. “It is one of the blessings He gave me.”
Wayne tries to pass that optimism on to his students. “I tell them life will be mean to you, but you can choose not to be angry or sad about it. You can choose to be happy,” he explained. He tries to help by seasoning his instruction with humor. Wayne’s students know that he is always carrying a tune in his head. So when he is walking down the hallway he might hear a student call out: So what song is it today, Mr. Netherby?
Wayne and his wife, Mary, raised four children and have lived in Marmora since 1987. His wife teaches at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Atlantic City and formerly taught at St. Augustine School. For more than 20 years Wayne worked as an entertainment technician at an Atlantic City casino, putting in long and late hours on weekends. Yet he would find his way into the choir loft on Sunday mornings. “Sometimes I would come to church in my uniform,” he said. “I would read over the songs, sing, and go back to work.” Wayne appreciates singing under the direction of Debbie Roland. “She picks such good music liturgy,” he said. “She chooses hymns that make you think about what is going on.”
Wayne seeks everyday ways to evangelize for the Lord. “God likes us to talk about him,” he said. Singing is one of the ways Wayne can talk about God. He also tries to find other, small ways to witness. “I will never be up at the altar or on the street corner preaching,” he said. “But if I am in the Wawa buying a cup of coffee, I might say to the clerk, Remember, God and I love you.”