Music Teachers Retiring After 62 Years Of Service

Washington Andy Coccagnia: Washington Middle School Band Director, Andy Coccagnia, works with flute and clarinet players during a practice session. Submitted photo

Washington Middle School’s Band Director, Andy Coccagnia, and Music Teacher and Choral Director, Mark Alpaugh, will retire at the end of this school year after a combined total of over 62 years of service.

“From the moment I stepped into Washington 12 years ago, I was amazed by the professionalism, energy and overall passion for teaching that Mark and Andy possessed,” said Washington Principal Melissa Emerson. “They have been a staple in our building as well as our school community for so many years, they will be greatly missed and never replaced.”

Mr. Coccagnia began at Washington Middle School in 1984 – over 35 years at the same school – as band director. He conducts the Concert Band for sixth through eighth grade students. He also teaches fifth grade students who are just learning a new instrument.

“My father was a band director, my grandfather and uncle were also music teachers so music was always in my family and I fell in love with it. I started playing clarinet in fifth grade, then piano. Becoming a music educator was the only thing I ever thought of doing. I had a passion for music and I wanted to share it with my students.”

Mr. Alpaugh worked for four months at Love Elementary School and then moved to Washington Middle School where he has been the general music teacher, choral director and musical director for 27 years. He teaches music classes to each grade level for 13-weeks every other year. He directs four choruses, including Boys and Girls Choruses. He also directs the school musicals that include all Washington music programs: chorus, band and orchestra.

Washington Mark Alpaugh: Washington Middle School Music teacher, Mark Alpaugh, teaches students during a general music class. Submitted photo

“I do think music teachers are born to it,” said Mr. Alpaugh. “Even when I was younger, I always knew I wanted to teach. I felt like it was something I could do well and connect with kids.”

Mr. Alpaugh and Mr. Coccagnia have loved their jobs.

“For me the best part of the job is the everyday victories,” said Mr. Alpaugh. “When the kids become players of music, not just consumers. I love seeing their connection with music. Many of the kids I teach may not play in the orchestra or band or sing in the chorus but I want them to feel that communal experience that music can bring you and just the joy of music in their everyday life. I love when I go out in the community and someone comes up to me that I had in music class and says, I’m a DJ at night or I’m singing in my church choir. I’m not trying to turn out musicians but just a love of music in their lives.”

“My favorite part of being a band director is when a student tells me that a piece of music makes them feel something,” said Mr. Coccagnia. “‘ve had students tell me that the music gave them goose bumps. If I can walk away from being a music educator knowing kids felt that, it’s something that I’ll always be proud of. I want them to feel that love of music like I do.”

They know it’s time to “pass the baton.”

“It’s nice we are going to retire together,” said Mr. Alpaugh and Mr. Coccagnia. “We have been friends and colleagues for so many years and really respect each other. But it is time for the younger people to come in and take over the Washington music program with new ideas. It’s their turn now.”

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