Doug Eyink, director of the Alternative Strings program in Centerville, OH, and a life long bluegrass banjo player, passed away on March 3 following an lengthy battle with colon cancer. He was 51 years of age.
Doug served as the orchestra teacher for both the Centerville High School and Watts Middle School in the Centerville City School District, just near Dayton, OH. A beloved member of that community, his Facebook page is today filled with testimonies from former and current students, faculty, staff, family, and friends. He was the teacher that former students stopped by to visit whenever they were in town, and brought their spouses and family to meet him. Most of us have memories of that teacher who really got through to us in school, in some cases changing the course of our lives, and for students in Centerville, it was Doug Eyink.
What set him most truly apart from his peers was his mentorship for middle and high school students through Alternative Strings, an after school program for string players interested in other forms of music, specifically bluegrass, Celtic, bebop, swing, funk, and rock music on orchestral instruments. In addition to exposing them to musical formats that the orchestra program never would, Doug had the idea to create arrangements for this group to accompany top bluegrass recording artists, and bringing them in for concerts with the Alternative Strings where they performed together called Bluegrass Blowouts.
Through Alternative Strings, Eyink met Joe Mullins who not only brought his Radio Ramblers in to perform with the students, the two became fast friends. Though Joe’s introductions Doug met and arranged collaborations with many bluegrass acts, including Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Nothin’ Fancy, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Special Consensus, Flatt Lonesome, Blue Highway, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Cherryholmes, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Mountain Faith, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper among them.
Doug even took the group to the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Festival in Marengo, OH to perform with The Grascals, Band of Kellys, and the Bank of Ruhks.
And he helped develop up and coming grassers, like Heather Alley, currently fiddler and vocalist with Mountain Time, who was a student with Alternative strings. Here’s Heather singing, along with Doug’s children Ben and Molly Eyink, on Alternative Strings’ take on the Mountain Faith arrangement of There Is A God.
Eyink came by his love for bluegrass honestly, spending his own youth fascinated with the banjo, and playing in bands and at contests, often with his sister Jeanelle. The two played together for a time with a band called Foxtail Grass. Doug won and placed in a number of banjo competitions while he was still in high school, before heading off to college to study music.
Once Doug’s cancer was diagnosed and he announced that he would retire from teaching, Joe Mullins created The Doug Eyink Alternative Strings Scholarship which will benefit music students in the region. Fundraising has only begun for this scholarship, but Joe feels confident that it will be up and running soon.
Mullins had this to say when the scholarship was announced last fall.
When JMRR and Alternative Strings first partnered to perform and video record our song, Some Kind of War, Doug was fighting his first battle with colon cancer. It was an emotional time for his family, his students, alumni, and everyone who so enjoys working with this wonderful teacher. The fight has continued and Doug’s doctor recommended his retirement from teaching this year.
I want Doug’s impact and legacy to always be appreciated and represented in Ohio schools, so I contacted his dear friend Hillary Wagner, an Alternative Strings assistant and coordinator, and asked her to help launch the Doug Eyink Alternative Strings Scholarship. Doug, the Eyink family, and many Alternative Strings alums were thankful and eagerly approved of the effort. We have even received a matching grant from a former student of up to $5000!!
The loss to the Eyink family, to Centerville City Schools, to his many students, past and present, and to bluegrass music in general is incalculable.
No information on funeral arrangements have been announced.
R.I.P., Doug Eyink.