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October 23, 2014

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Students sing in memory of slain choir teacher

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Richard Brian

Members of the Basic High School choirs and symphonic orchestra perform Tuesday during their winter concert at the Basic Theater. The concert was scheduled for Dec. 17 but canceled due to snow. The students said the performance was a way to honor their slain teacher, Matthew Cox, who was killed Dec. 22. Another performance is scheduled for Wednesday night at a memorial service for Cox at Basic High.

Audio Clip

  • Matthew Cox performs a solo, "And So It Goes," with his choir in Hopkins, Mich., during his last performance before moving to Nevada. Audio clip courtesy his family.
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In memory of Matthew Cox

Members of the Basic High School choirs and symphonic orchestra perform Tuesday during their winter concert at the Basic Theater. The concert was scheduled for Dec. 17 but canceled due to snow. The students said the performance was a way to honor their slain teacher, Matthew Cox, who was killed Dec. 22. Another performance is scheduled for Wednesday night at a memorial service for Cox at Basic High. Launch slideshow »

After word of their teacher’s death made its way to his students, members of Basic High School’s choir knew they had to continue with their prescheduled concerts.

Their teacher, Matthew Thomas Cox, wouldn’t have had it any other way, they said.

Cox, 32, was found dead in his home Dec. 22. Police arrested Jose A. Delatorre, 18, and a 17-year-old identified as Delatorre’s brother Dec. 23.

Tuesday night, his students completed their second of three planned concerts. The first, caroling at the Galleria at Sunset mall, was Dec. 22. The performance was their make-up winter concert, originally scheduled for Dec. 17 but canceled because of snow.

The chamber choir will also perform tomorrow at a memorial being held for Cox.

“We all know that’s what Mr. Cox would have wanted,” Melinda Curtin, 16, said.

Delatorre is scheduled to appear before Henderson Justice of the Peace Rodney Burr at 9 a.m. Thursday. He is charged with murder, burglary, kidnapping and robbery along with the 17-year-old, who is charged as a juvenile.

Police say the 17-year-old, a student of Cox, told them that Cox picked him and Delatorre up and took them back to his house, where they played video games while he packed.

Cox later drove the two back to their home in downtown Las Vegas. After he stopped in front of the home, the teen’s statement says, Delatorre struck Cox in the head and the two choked him.

They drove the car back to Cox’s home, where they took laptop computers, a Wii console and games, DVDs and an iPod. They left Cox on the sofa, with a blanket over him, according to the statement.

The brothers only meant to rob Cox, not to kill him, police said the teen said.

At the winter concert, the students tried not to focus on the details surrounding Cox’s death. They were more concerned with putting on their show the way he would have wanted.

The excitement that normally surrounds their concerts was evident as students ran back and forth between the stage and choir rooms, laughing and yelling to each other.

“There’s been a lot of crying, but we’ve been doing good,” choir president George Nelson, 18, said.

Darrell Crowther, choir teacher at Coronado High School and former choir teacher at Basic, stepped in to direct the students for the evening.

There was occasional idle chatter about what Cox would have said about the show or how excited he would have been, and most of it came with laughter as students fondly remembered their teacher.

He was responsible for instilling confidence in them, many of the students said.

“He really gave me the courage to sing in front of people,” Curtin said.

One thing the students have realized is how much their leadership skills have grown, they said, and they credit Cox.

“I’m not a natural-born leader, but Mr. Cox taught me a lot,” Nelson said.

Choir secretary Carli Barnum agreed.

“Mr. Cox prepared us for anything,” she said, noting he would often choose random students to lead warmups in the mornings. “He taught us well.”

Monday was the students’ first day back to school since the slaying. It’s been hard, they said.

“There’s so much to do still. We still need him,” Barnum said. “He was always positive. He never gave up on us.”

Two weeks off before returning to school was helpful for some of the students, but others felt it was too long.

“I don’t think we got the closure we’re getting now, being in this room,” Camron Salisbury, 16, said.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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