By Juliette Laaka | Jun 12, 2016
Photo by: Juliette Laaka – Carolyn Kanicki
ST. GEORGE — Music has always been a part of veteran educator Carolyn Kanicki’s life. She grew up in a musical family and now encourages children to join the St. George School band.
Kathleen and Stan Fox, whose daughter took French horn lessons with Kanicki, said they are always so impressed with her ability to give hundreds of school children the gift of music, saying she is a fantastic teacher who deserves recognition. “The students sound professional and are in grade school,” Kathleen said of the band Kanicki leads.
Kanicki has been teaching music for 25 years, and has worked with high school and grade school students in her career. She prefers working with middle school students because of the palpable progress they can make in a year, and because she can witness how they learn from and teach each other.
Visiting Kanicki in the school gym during the full band practice, where they were preparing for the annual Memorial Day parade, the students were lively and engaged. “Who needs aerobics — just be a band teacher,” Kanicki said with a laugh after class, adding that mid-level band is certainly the highest-energy age group she has taught.
Originally from Michigan, she moved to Maine in the early 1990s with her husband, Don Kanicki, the now-retired former superintendent of Rockland schools.
Her siblings wed fellow musicians, and Kanicki joked that, while her husband is not musical, he carries her French horn. “I married a superintendent — I’m the odd ball in the family,” she said.
When first relocating to Maine, Kanicki taught in St. George and Thomaston before moving to St. George to teach grades 5-8. She said the support St. George School has for arts education is incredible, and has enabled her to teach three days a week as opposed to two, a rarity in public schools today.
Kanicki said her goal in teaching music is to simply expose students to music, encourage them to play, and show them this is something they can do throughout their lifetimes. She believes music does help children in other areas of study, and said that while some students struggle in the classroom, they transform in band class with the hands-on-learning aspect of music.
There are 47 students in band now, a number that remains fairly consistent year by year. All students except for three in the fifth grade class are enrolled this year, she said, and those who take a break from playing music often come back to it. “I try to tell them, give it a try, starting together is easier than on your own.”
Fifth grade is the best age to start learning an instrument, Kanicki believes. “I like this age because they are very busy, but I feel they have a lot of energy and motivation,” she said.
Kanicki is most impressed with the sixth grade every year, the year they transition out of beginning band and then play with older students and learn more challenging music. “They always pull it off! That’s the class I think takes the biggest adjustment, from beginning to middle-level band,” she said.
Her favorite instrument is the French horn, which she plays professionally in the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra and Maine State Ballet Orchestra, but she can play something on a variety of instruments. In the summer, she also plays in the Midcoast Community Band, led by Jo Anne Parker. Kanicki said the community band is a great cross-section of musicians, and students have also joined the band.
“That’s my outlet, where I can play and not worry about the directive work,” she said.
Kanicki said she is inspired by the Midcoast Symphony, saying she enjoys playing and listening to classical music especially, but that she appreciates all kinds of music. In teaching, and the concerts, she said she tries not to do the standard Christmas music each year, but introduce new songs to students, as well as the March concert, where she wants the students’ progress throughout the year to be highlighted.
In considering her long-term plans, Kanicki said she is taking teaching one year at a time, re-evaluating what she wants to do, especially as her husband is fully retired — although she still loves the work.
Former student Eben Wight, now a sophomore at the University of Maine, told Kanicki she cannot retire until he is finished with school because he wants the job.
Reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401, ext. 118, or via email at email@example.com.
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