Canton welcomes new performing arts director

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After Ida Pappas graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh with a double major in voice performance and music theater as well as music education, she wanted to begin her teaching career someplace other than where she had grown up.

Ida Pappas

Ida Pappas

“I wanted to teach not in my backyard,” she said. “I wanted a different experience.”

Pappas accepted a position at Blackrock College, an all-boys high school in Dublin, Ireland, preparing the school’s chorus and orchestra for a fundraising concert to benefit charities in Africa. However, when she arrived, she discovered that Blackrock had neither a chorus nor an orchestra. She had to put together the two musical groups and then get them ready for a performance at the National Concert Hall of Dublin.

“It was interesting,” Pappas said with a laugh of her introduction to teaching. “It was baptism by fire.”

Everything went very well and Pappas said that she learned from her new colleagues that you have to make a road; it’s not all laid out. The road that Pappas created 22 years ago in Ireland has brought her to the Canton Public Schools this fall, where her newest role is that of K-12 performing arts coordinator.

When she returned to the United States after teaching in Ireland, Pappas moved to Massachusetts, where her then fiancé, Eric Byers, was in graduate school. She looked for a position teaching music in a public school system, but there were none.

“All the schools had cut programs,” recalled Pappas, who went on to teach at a number of private schools, including Buckingham Browne & Nichols, Dana Hall, Walnut Park Montessori, and Bancroft School.

During those years, Pappas realized what it was she really loved about teaching. “I learned my passion for interdisciplinary teaching and learning,” she said. “Community building through the arts is at the heart of what makes me love teaching.”

Pappas left Bancroft School to start her family with her husband, Eric. They have two daughters, Bronwyn, 15, and Linnea, 12. She and her husband built their home, gutting the old building and then doing everything from the framing to the insulation to the roofing and painting. When her girls were young, she continued teaching by giving voice and piano lessons in a studio in her home and working with individual students.

“I created my own methodology,” she said. “Those were my incubation years. I learned how to get to kids who were struggling. That was a really important part of my education.”

She also developed a deep interest in multicultural education and worked with students on every style of music. She explored Afro-Cuban rhythms and Balinese Gamelan music, which uses a number of percussion instruments.

When her younger daughter began school, Pappas returned as well, teaching kindergarten and first grade music in Hopkinton. She moved on to Dover-Sherborn, teaching music at the elementary level, starting a chorus, working with the high school musicals, and building a K-12 curriculum. She enjoyed her work, but found it challenging to have an impact on her colleagues as their peer. “I’d like to have the opportunity to lead,” she said.

Pappas holds a master’s degree in music education from Boston University and is working on a PhD at Lesley University. In her new role at Canton High, her responsibilities include the theatre program and three classes she will teach.

One of them is a drama and media arts class, and Pappas wrote a diverse curriculum for it that includes advertisements, visuals, drama, digital components, sound collages, Twitter, and poster creation.

Her two piano classes involve the use of electronic keyboards in a piano lab, but Pappas plans to push for authentic pianos for students. She is responsible for the music program in the schools, which comprises nine teachers: three who teach general music and chorus at the elementary level, in addition to offering instrumental lessons; three who teach general music, chorus and band at the middle school; and three at CHS who offer chorus, band, theatre and other classes. She would love to add dance classes to the offerings.

Pappas said one of her goals as coordinator is to guide curriculum writing K-12 so that the material dovetails from grade to grade and school to school. The other is to work on the interdisciplinary and cultural piece.

“I want to bring the community together — the school, the town with the rest of the world,” she said.

Pappas hopes that students will say, “I am a community member in the world. What are my responsibilities?”

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