SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Federico Foster, known as Rico to friends, loved music and teaching and combined that into the best career he could have imagined — being a high school band director.

Now friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of the vibrant band leader who died of COVID Tuesday.

“He was a great person, always jolly. He loved teaching, he loved music,” said Laiken Williams, also known as Laiken Love to many local music lovers.

Williams says she met Foster about 10 years ago and that he will leave big shoes to fill in terms of his contributions.

“His absence to kids, it will leave a big hole. I know he was just going into Savannah Arts recently, but from Savannah High, there’s a lot of kids there who he taught music,” she said. “He’s just one of those educators who cared a lot about the kids and about the music.”

Foster taught five years at Savannah High and took a job as band director for this school year at Savannah Arts Academy. He conducted band camp over the summer but never made it into a Savannah Arts classroom.

Foster became ill and was hospitalized before school could begin.

Jenny Woodruff from the Savannah Music Festival said she met Foster several years ago when he became an instructor at their Jazz Academy.

“It was just so clear what a passion he had for music,” said Woodruff. “He had just finished his doctoral program at Auburn University and just gotten this position at Savannah Arts Academy but he didn’t get to start the school year.”

“Every (COVID) death is a loss and is tragic,” said Woodruff, “but this is a huge loss for Savannah. It really, really is.”

Williams hopes her friend will be remembered for being a teacher, mentor, and most importantly, a music man.

“He may be gone from us, but he’s here with us for the rest of our lives,” said Williams. “His spirit will always be with us, but he’s already missed.”

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System issued the following statement on Foster’s death:

It is with sadness that we share the passing of Mr. Federico Foster. Though he worked for a short time as a substitute from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Foster was first employed full-time by the district in 2015 when he was hired as a Music/Chorus Teacher at Beach High. Following a year spent at Beach High, Mr. Foster transferred to the School of Liberal Studies at Savannah High where he worked as the Band Teacher for five years until this past summer when he transferred to become the Savannah Arts Academy band director.

The principal of Savannah Arts stated that in just a short time, Mr. Foster had already made a great impact on the school’s students and staff with his passion for music and love of teaching. Support is being provided to the school community by our district counseling staff.