Music teacher leaving for Charlotte (5/28/09)

May 28, 2009

Rachel Gill

Observer correspondent

As a bassist, Andrew Smith has performed on stages in Turkey, Asia and, yes, even at local Burlington hot spots. Offstage, as a music teacher at Williston Central School, Smith brings his experience and passion for music into the classroom. Smith will soon take those skills to Charlotte Central School, as the new music teacher.


    Observer photo by Stephen Mease
Williston Jazz Band Conductor Andy Smith takes the mic at the CSSU District Jazz Festival, held May 13 at Champlain Valley Union High School. Smith will become the new music teacher at Charlotte Central School next school year.

The position opened with the pending retirement of Tony Pietricola, the CCS music teacher for the last 23 years who is also an avid music performer throughout Vermont. Pietricola will step down from his position at the end of the school year.

“I don’t believe you can teach music without performing,” Smith said. “It sharpens our skills as educators, listeners and communicators.”

Smith will go to Charlotte after teaching music for 11 years at Williston Central School. Prior to Williston, Smith taught middle school music in New Hampshire for four years. Smith currently lives in Panton with his wife, Teresa, and two children, Hunter and Madeline.

“Kids, kids and kids, I look forward to working with them and making new connections with the Charlotte community,” Smith said. “It’s a great school and faculty and it will be a great place to work.”

In terms of what he will miss about Williston, just press rewind.

“It’s the same thing, the kids,” Smith said. “I have already experienced kids cycling through and moving on to CVU and always check in with them so in moving to another town in the district, I look forward to continuing to watching these kids’ musical careers grow.”

Working for Chittenden South Supervisory Union is something Smith is excited to continue.

“I love CSSU and all of the active music departments within the district,” Smith said. “We all work very closely with one another and I am very proud to work with such a fantastic group of individuals.”

Charlotte Central School Vice Principal Catrina DiNapoli, who is in her final weeks at the school, said Smith will be a welcome addition to the school’s staff.

“We are very excited about Andy, as kids and parents alike have responded very positively to him over the years,” DiNapoli said. “We know him to be energetic, creative and fun.”

Smith’s annual involvement with the Vermont Jazz Camp at the Elley-Long Music Center at St. Michael’s College has given him some Charlotte rehearsal time.

“The camp actually gave me the fortunate opportunity to work with Charlotte students and Tony Pietricola, both very positive experiences, “Smith said. “Tony and I had made it a tradition that I take the Charlotte kids and he takes the Williston kids.”

Making Music

Smith’s performance career includes playing the upright bass and the electric bass while touring with such acts as The Neville Brothers, an American rhythm and blues group, and Mighty Sam McClain, a Grammy nominated rhythm and blues performer. Smith toured with Sam McClain from 2002 to 2006, visiting five Russian cities and 15 Turkish cities.

“It has been an experience of a lifetime playing for tons and tons of people, and meeting some of my musical heroes,” Smith said.

It all started with Smith’s childhood passion.

“I had a box of 45s that I listened to over and over. I remember those 45s speaking to me. That’s what music does, it speaks to us,” Smith said. “It’s hard to put into words and I haven’t figured it out. The power of music, how music can bring tears to our eyes, how it deepens your soul and can make us to go out on the field and compete against any team.”

Smith said no matter the stage, it’s always about the music.

“It’s not that much different if you are playing on a stage to a huge crowd in Istanbul or to a group of your peers. Regardless of where you are, just try to pay homage to the song and do the very best you can,” Smith said.

For Smith, performing music is key to music education.

“It shows kids that music can take you wherever you want to go,” Smith said. “I hope that my experience on stage can be inspiring to students to keep it up and that they can do the same.”

Williston Central School Principal Jacqueline Parks said Smith has already accomplished that goal.

“He is not only a stellar teacher but also contributes to the greater school environment,” Parks said last week. “Just this morning we had an official opening of a new school courtyard and he organized student musical performances and the entire sound system. He is constantly going above and beyond.”

Smith will no doubt be missed.

“His leaving will leave a big hole in our school,” Parks said. “He is a prestigious educator and we wish him well.”