How does a guy who spent his entire career at Columbia Records become an environmentalist? He hikes along May Creek north of Kennydale and falls in love with its natural beauty and annual salmon runs.
Larry Reymann grew up in Ohio. His father was a World War II fighter pilot, who flew more than 100 combat missions.
“My father was a bona fide hero,” he states unequivocally. “Someday, I hope to live up to his ideals.
Reymann grew up as one of six children and would have been lost in the crowd if it wasn’t for a nun who encouraged his individuality.
“She told me I could write and sing," he said. " It made all the difference in the world to me.”
He enrolled in a Catholic seminary after eighth grade, eventually earning a Master’s Degree in American Literature from Marquette University. But the popular music, so long forbidden in the seminary, distracted Reymann from a potential teaching career. Instead, he went on to a 30-year career as a Regional Promotional Director for Columbia Records and hob-knobbing with the likes of Mick Jagger and Mariah Carey.
“Very few people survive that business until retirement,” he smiles. “But I was named Promotional Manager of the Year twice and retired with benefits.”
Reymann’s job was to get songs on the radio and then manage the artists when they came through town. Working with the inflated egos of celebrities and music executives was difficult.
“I had responsibility for everything and authority over nothing,” he grins.
When Reymann needed an antidote to the insanity of the music business, he turned to May Creek.
“I grew up looking at ugly carp swimming in Lake Erie,” he laughs. “Once I saw a salmon, I was hooked.” When the advertised for volunteer naturalists, Reymann signed up to educate the public on the salmon’s habitat at five different locations on the Cedar River.
“About 9,000 people visited those sites in 2010,” says Reymann proudly.
That modest beginning led to a full-fledged volunteer career for Reymann. Today, he’s added “salmon watcher” and Park Ambassador to his May Creek duties. He is the team leader at the Ballard Locks, serves as President of the Land Watershed Stewards Association and chairs the Parish Council at St. Anthony’s Parish here in Renton. He even landed a seat on Renton’s Park Board and runs an after school science program called “New Futures” for kids living in public housing.
“My dad had a huge gift for relating to kids,” he remembers. “Now, I do.”
One of Reymann’s favorite memories was helping a group of Eastside Catholic High School students remove 500 abandoned tires that had become a habitat for rats and mosquitoes along May Creek.
“I love working with kids,” he says. “They get it. They know we can’t live the way our grandparents did—just use it and move on.”
Reymann’s volunteer work has led to several part-time paid positions as well, including working as Beach Captain at Sculpture Park, the Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists program and the Environmental Science Center in Burien.
“When you see this incredible animal (salmon) in the water and learn how it ties together these different environments, it’s pretty hard to resist,” he said.
In the early days, Reymann’s passion was music. Today, it’s the environment. Diametrically opposed enterprises, you say?
The poet in me says, no. There is an abundance of music in nature. The gurgle of a mountain stream. The wind rustling through the trees. A bird song. The flap of a salmon’s tail.
Reymann knows this. In the end, he’s just traded one musical career for another.