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Bath, ME (February 1, 2021) – Throughout her life, whether through performance or instruction, RSU1 music teacher Louine Gagnon has been sharing the gift of music with others. Even as she approaches retirement, she maintains the energy and charisma of someone who has truly found their calling.
“I have always loved working with children and my passion is music,” Gagnon said. “I have weathered many challenges and honestly feel I have been able to make the best out of each musical situation. I’ve learned that there is a lot more to teaching music than just teaching the notes!”
Gagnon considers herself a “piano gal” and began lessons at the age of 13 to play the songs of her idols: music greats like Billy Joel, Carole King, and Elton John. She grew up in Terryville, CT, and graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 1980 with a B.S. in music education. After earning an additional K-8 Elementary classroom certificate from Central Connecticut State University, she began her teaching career at Gardiner Area High School.
“I was named Teacher of the Year at GAHS during my third year there as choral director. It was so meaningful to me because it was staff that nominated me and acknowledged my work,” Gagnon said.
Another honor was bestowed on Gagnon in 2009 when she was teaching at Fisher Mitchell School in Bath. Gagnon was an invited to the Yale School of Music’s Symposium on Music in Schools, a celebration which honors fifty teachers from across the country for their outstanding accomplishments teaching music in public schools. Gagnon was particularly moved by her nomination, which came from Fisher Mitchell School’s then-principal Larry Dyer. She called the experience “amazing.”
Even considering her accolades, Gagnon’s favorite memories from the 27 years she spent teaching in RSU1 are watching families attend winter and spring concerts.
“I really loved leading middle school chorus. When we had concerts, it was always a packed house. And, most importantly, I enjoyed hearing back from the families afterward. Back then it was by card or written letter; now it’s by email or text. I still run into parents who remember what songs their kids sang. Quite often they say, ‘That song made me cry,’ and I respond, ‘Yeah! Then I did my job.’ ”
COVID-19 prevented Gagnon from teaching chorus this year (singing spreads germs) but that hasn’t slowed her down.
“Louine has brought a tremendous amount of positivity to the school, and the children love her,” said Phippsburg Elementary School Principal Sandra Gorsuch-Plummer. “She has managed to make music class without singing fun and joyful.”
“Louine strived to make music accessible and relatable to all students,” added Principal Ross Berkowitz of Fisher Mitchell School. “She truly loved bringing music into the schools and the kids' lives.”
Gagnon’s plans for retirement include focusing on her daughter, Ann Marie Jane, and husband Robert.
“Music will always be in my life. It has always been ‘my life.’ My Chickering Baby Grand Piano will be played a lot more, and I will be open to new opportunities in music. I know that I still have a lot to offer.”
Gagnon’s advice to music teachers of the future is to pay close attention to what students want to sing and play instead of always teaching the pieces they learned in college.
“Focus on the disciplines and skills that you can pull out and use in any song,” Gagnon advised. “Take your cue from what kids like and then add your teaching expertise. The music learning will be far richer, enjoyable, and will create a spark that will always shine.”
Photo: Louine Gagnon conducts a winter concert at Phippsburg Elementary School