Young New Canaan HS Grad Remembered As Talented Musician After Untimely Death

A freshman at a prestigious Massachusetts college who graduated from a Connecticut high school in 2023 is being remembered as a brilliant musician who always followed his curiosity into success. 

Williams College.

Williams College.

Photo Credit: Flickr/SERSeanCrane
New Canaan High School.

New Canaan High School.

Photo Credit: Google Maps street view

The death of Fairfield County resident Toby Woods, a 2023 graduate of New Canaan High School who was a freshman at Williams College in the Berkshire County town of Williamstown, was announced by officials at both schools on Friday, Feb. 23. 

In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, Williams College President Maud Mandel said Woods was a "passionate student who loved learning," and had been a prospective economics and music major. 

Woods' passion for music began back during his childhood when he began studying cello and piano. 

He carried this into this time at Williams, becoming a beloved student of Marylin and Arthur Levitt Professor of Music Tony Sheppard, who spoke highly of Woods. 

"He was a student of quiet brilliance, always engaged and interested, consistently impressive," Sheppard said of Woods, adding, "His devotion to learning was so clearly genuine." 

Woods was so devoted to music that he wrote about it in his college application essay, detailing his thoughts on his own arrangement of Brahms' Double Concerto. 

"I have the entire piece memorized and I’m the one playing the notes, but Brahms is in control; I’m but a wanderer in the world he created," Woods wrote, adding, "There’s something more than just the science of sound waves at work; the music lifts my soul. It feels discovered, not composed.”

Woods' soul was not the only one impacted when he played music, according to his cello teacher, Julian Müller.

"Toby’s alert, attentive, and always at the ready temperament infectiously held the room, especially when he played the cello," Müller said. He continued, "His listening to the potentials that lay within the music were ever-growing and expanding, for the ultimate depth and truth of expression." 

In addition to his love of music, Woods also was passionate about math, computer science, and sociology, and became involved in the Alhambra Consulting Group, a student-run pro bono group based at Williams. During his time with the group, he earned a runner-up spot at their Third Annual Case Competition in January, Mandel said. 

He also worked on a project for a local pizzeria and had started a project supporting the Special Olympics, Mandel added. 

Woods also pursued other interests such as travel, often visiting his extended family in England and hiking in Switzerland. His love of hiking continued at Williams, where he explored several trails. 

"I know you join me in extending the deepest condolences of the Williams community to the Woods family in their time of loss," Mandel wrote, adding that the college's chaplains will collaborate with students to plan a memorial for Woods' life later in the semester. 

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced. 

Check back to Daily Voice for updates. 

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