When there are no words, there is music, said Erik Jester, the director of bands for Cal State San Bernardino’s music department.
Jester wasn’t at a loss for words describing Danny Ramadan, a CSUSB music student who died July 3 from injuries he suffered in a June 16 car accident — just two days after he graduated.
“As musicians, when there are no words, there’s music,” Jester said. “And that’s how we express ourselves.”
And it was through music that Danny Ramadan, 21, an honor student and musician whom CSUSB music professors called the university’s “top trumpeter,” expressed himself. Not so much with words, Jester said, but by example.
“He didn’t have to say much,” said Jester, who had Danny in all the classes that he taught, and also served as Danny’s adviser for his senior project, as well as working closely with him in the music department on other projects. “He just did. He was a great role model for all of our students.”
The professor added, “He was one of the brightest students we had at Cal State throughout his time here. He never uttered a negative word about anything or anyone, and I never once heard a complaint out of his mouth, which is a testament to the type of man he was, let alone student. He was committed to his craft.”
Danny and his girlfriend, Leslie Gonzalez, were on their way to Redlands when the car he was driving collided head-on with a Mitsubishi Eclipse that, according to authorities, had crossed the double yellow line on Little Mountain Road. The driver of that car, identified as Jose Luis Zacarias, was killed in the collision. Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the crash.
Gonzalez suffered a broken arm and leg, a fractured shoulder and fractured disk in her lower spine. Danny was put on life support after the accident, and on July 3, it was turned off.
That Danny and his girlfriend were heading to Redlands for the music department’s year-end awards banquet where students, including Danny, were to be honored made the loss a little more painful, Jester said.
“As a small department we, as a faculty, are very close with our students, and the students are very close with each other,” he said. “Many of the students are aware of the accident, and had visited Danny while he was in the hospital. In fact, I think one of the doctors mentioned that Danny broke the record for most visitors. The loss of Danny alone is devastating, but as a faculty, watching his friends cope with the loss is deeply saddening.”
Danny planned to pursue a career as an elementary school music teacher. Jester said he had all the attributes to be an excellent music educator, from the passion for the art to the desire, professionalism and patience. And, the professor said, Danny was always prepared. He had been teaching a music class – the trumpet – at Colton High School. Besides the trumpet, Ramadan also played the trombone and piano along with many other musical instruments, and also sang in the choir.
He also played in a few local groups including the Sozo Community Jazz Band in Riverside, the Redlands Community Orchestra, and all of Cal State San Bernardino’s ensembles, from symphony to jazz.
While listing all that may show how music was part of his life, it doesn’t communicate Danny’s passion for the art.
Jester shared this story to illustrate how passionate Danny was about music: Earlier this year, Danny traveled to Chicago to watch the Chicago Symphony perform Symphony No. 7, a piece by one of his favorite composers, Dmitri Shostakovich. That by itself is not particularly noteworthy. How Danny ended up there, however, is one of Jester’s favorite memories of his student.
Jester said Danny had dropped by his office one day and mentioned how great it would be if the Chicago Symphony performed the piece. As it happened, Danny looked online and saw that the symphony was scheduled to perform it four days later in Chicago.
“In one of those ‘you-only-live-once’ types of advising, I told him he should go to Chicago if he had the funds,” Jester said. “And he actually did. He took some of his graduation money, booked a flight and just went. Just to hear a concert. He loved music.”
And just like Danny, the music will be far ranging, from jazz, to symphony, to choir. And, as a testament to his influence, some from his peers from his high school alma mater, Cajon High, have been invited to perform; they had inquired about putting together a musical memorial for Danny, but decided to join the CSUSB effort.
“We really want to do something nice for him in his memory and his honor,” Jester said.
Ramadan’s father, Ayman, is a part-time faculty member in the university’s World Languages and Literature Department. His mother, Samira Murtada, who has served as an Arabic mentor in the department’s Summer Language Intensive program, withdrew after to her son’s accident.
“We’re all just heartbroken over here,” Jester said. “He’ll live on through his legacy and his character. We’re all better from having known him.”
The family plans to establish a memorial fund in Danny Ramadan’s name to support music education at Cal State San Bernardino.
Funeral arrangements are pending.