photo: Ema Whittaker
Wilton High School‘s annual Pops Concert will take place tonight, Wednesday, May 31, beginning at 7:30 p.m.. The concert showcases all of the WHS music groups performing Broadway show tunes and popular music, and this year will feature a special reception for two retiring WHS music directors, chorus conductor Betsey DeGroff and orchestra conductor Marty Meade. After being at Wilton High School and Middlebrook for his entire teaching career, the orchestra program founder and teacher will conduct his final concert tonight.
The WHS Music Boosters are hosting the reception immediately following the Pops Concert, in the Zellner Gallery at the Clune Center.
“The contributions of these two beloved members of the Wilton High School community cannot be overstated. They have inspired and supported the musical talents of hundreds and hundreds of our children. Their vision of excellence and commitment to the highest standards in music education will be remembered by all who worked with them, all who were taught by them, and all who enjoyed the concerts they directed,” says Lynn Driver, WHS Music Boosters president.
When Meade first took the job as orchestra director at WHS in 1988, there were only 10 students in orchestra. In the 29 years since, that number has grown to nearly 90 students. Along with this growth in size have come many impressive musical achievements by students at WHS, including the performance of student concertos during orchestra concerts. The musical theater performances at WHS have also benefited significantly from the growth and development of the orchestra under Meade’s direction.
Remarkably, Meade was able to manage his role as WHS orchestra director while at the same time teach orchestra at Middlebrook Middle School to approximately 150 students. This rare arrangement allowed many students to enjoy the benefits of being taught and guided for a full seven years by a very gifted teacher.
During his tenure in the Wilton Schools, Meade also functioned as the faculty advisor for the WHS Amnesty International Club and served as a regular conducting substitute for the Norwalk Youth Symphony. Meade’s summers were spent in Lake George, NY, as director of the Summer String Quartet at Silver Bay.
In an interview with Meade, he told of how he ended up in Wilton, what his time here was like, and what his plans for the future are.
GOOD Morning Wilton: How did you know you know you wanted to be a music teacher?
Marty Meade: I grew up in Saratoga Springs, which is a very cultural town, and my mother and father were heavily involved in the music department at Skidmore. I knew all the music professors there, and my mother and father were both musicians and both music teachers, so that’s how I got started in music. My father started me on violin when I was four, and my mother started me on piano when I was three. I only took one year of piano. And I still can’t play it.
GMW: How did you become a teacher?
Meade: I was really more performance focused for a long time, but thinking that teaching would be something I would do anyways, I took teaching classes in college. Even though my major was performance, I took classes required for education majors, so when I decided to become a music teacher, I already had a lot of the classes I needed finished.
GMW: What did you do before coming to Wilton?
Meade: I played in a string quartet, which had overlapping part time jobs in Michigan. I taught violin at Western Michigan University. I played in the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra and in the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. They were all part-time jobs that I held from 1978 until 1983, and then for two years, I was a Suzuki teacher in New Haven. I started teaching here when I was 33 years old. That first part of my career was very satisfying. I had fantastic students and great performances, played lots of great pieces with the orchestras and string quartet I was in, but I was a poor, starving musician.
GMW: How did you end up in Wilton?
Meade: After I got my certificate for teaching from Michigan, I wanted to come back to where I’d spent my younger years. I grew up in New York State, went to UConn for graduate school, and taught Suzuki in New Haven and I enjoyed the area, so I started looking for jobs in this area. I applied for several jobs, but I’m very glad I got the job in Wilton. I’ve been here since 1988. I was the first high school teacher for orchestra since 1970 when they used to have a program. It was re-started in Cider Mill, and I took over as the students got older.
GMW: What have been the highlights of your career, and what has made your job most fulfilling?
Meade: The great students who have played concertos, concerts with the chorus, and playing for the musicals. And the fact that I get to teach from grade six all the way up. I feel like I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of students to be musicians. The skills are one thing, but being a musician is icing on the cake on top of that, and I’ve gotten to do that.
GMW: What have been the hardest parts of your job?
Meade: The hardest parts are the things that are invisible. Teacher evaluations, and behind the scenes paperwork. That’s a necessary part of the job, but I could’ve done without it.
GMW: What has made Wilton special to you?
Meade: The fact that over the years I’ve gotten to know other teachers and lots of families; one of the coolest parts was getting to know multiple students from the same family.
GMW: What are you going to take away from Wilton and your career as a whole?
Meade: I’m going to know that when students in orchestra overhear music that they’ve played here in future years, whether it’s five years from now or forty years away, they are going to say to the people they’re in the room with, I played that piece and we sounded pretty good. That’s a pretty cool thing. I’ve had students come back and tell me that they heard a song we played in orchestra years ago. Knowing that that’s going to happen is very cool.
GMW: What are your plans for the future?
Meade: I’m moving to New Hampshire. I’ll go skiing and sailing. I’ve already met some great musicians and I have contacts to find more. I’m going to become trained as a barber. I’ve got the place picked out and it’s going to take four months. I’ll be the extra guy in the barber shop when it’s a busy day on Saturday I’ll be the number two guy. I’ll go to nursing homes and stuff like that. I’ve cut my own hair since I was 22-years-old. The only problem is I’ll have to learn to cut other people’s hair–I don’t want them all looking like me.
GMW: Anything else?
Meade: Thank you to all the great parents, teachers, and administrators I’ve gotten to know over the years.