Kevin Tellier was a fifth-grader in Keene, N.H., when he sensed his future career path. Inspired by his classroom teacher’s enthusiasm and engaging style, he decided to become a teacher, too. It was also his second year of percussion lessons, and he was beginning to appreciate his aptitude for music.
“Once those two realizations collided,” said Tellier, who was still in high school when he began teaching private lessons and performing professionally, “I knew I wanted to find a way to blend my two passions.”
On June 30, the Merrimack, N.H., resident will retire following a 35-year career as a music educator in the North Middlesex Regional School District, with current teaching assignments as band director and instrumental music teacher at Nissitissit Middle School and Varnum Brook Elementary School in Pepperell.
Under his direction, instrumental performing ensembles have earned nearly 100 medals and citations for excellence. In gratitude, Tellier’s colleagues, students, and their parents over the last generation began conspiring a year ago to ensure that his send-off matched his impact on their careers and lives.
Tellier was led to believe that he and his wife, Cindy, were meeting a friend on the way to dinner on May 16. Instead, he was greeted at the school by students holding congratulatory signs leading to the auditorium where a 500-member audience awaited.
The program included dedications of proclamations from the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, a video presentation, student reflections, and performances including the world premiere of “The Winds of Change” by composer James Swearingen, which was commissioned for the occasion.
In addition, Tellier was presented with a patchwork quilt made from band uniforms, and a donation to the Mark Tellier Memorial Scholarship Fund at Keene High School, honoring his 10-year-old son who died in a car accident in 1998.
Tellier, who said he was “overjoyed” after recovering from his shock at the tribute, is looking forward to performing more as a freelance percussionist, traveling with his wife, and perhaps teaching near his home. While looking ahead to his next chapter, he wants to leave behind one piece of advice.
“Find something you really believe in, and commit yourself to it,” he said. “It certainly worked for me.”
Cindy Cantrell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.