Strike up the band: Comeau gets nod as top local educatorWoodbury High School band director Brent Comeau has been named the 2013 Educator of the Year by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury High School band director Brent Comeau grew up around music – his grandfather played trombone and his father played saxophone – so he knows first-hand how important it is to the life of a high school student.
“Music courses’ contribution to a student’s education is just as critical as core classes,” he said. “Music is all of those core courses.
“Music is math through rhythms, counting and subdividing; music is foreign languages since what you see on a page you’re translating on the spot; music is a science since you’re dealing with frequencies of pitch and tone and tambre; and most important, music is art.”
Comeau’s passion for music and teaching is being recognized in the form of being named the 2013 Educator of the Year by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m absolutely humbled and honored to receive this award – I was in shock,” Comeau said. “We’ve got such a wealth of amazing people in our schools, so to even be considered is quite an honor.
“I think it’s really special that they picked a music teacher for this.”
A passion for music
Since Comeau, who now lives in Woodbury, grew up in a musical family, getting involved in music was only a natural path for him.
Through his high school and college careers, Comeau played tuba in a number of different bands and participated in a variety of music camps and performances.
Comeau, who graduated with a music degree from St. Olaf College, said performing has always been his favorite aspect of music.
“The feeling you get when performing music and listening to music is impossible to recreate,” he said. “It draws out emotions and it draws out things you didn’t know you had inside you.
“Plus, getting to create something out of nothing with the help of friends is amazing.”
Throughout his music career, Comeau said he has been able to work with some phenomenal musicians and has had the opportunity to perform in some amazing places.
“I’ve gotten some performance experiences that I will remember forever,” he said. “In fact, some of those performing things were perhaps why I wanted to get into teaching – I wanted to give that performance experience to generations to come.”
A passion for teaching
Comeau received his first high school band director job in 2001 at Andover High School, in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, as an assistant band director.
As fate would have it, the full-time band director there was Comeau’s high school band teacher.
“Working with him is what really shaped me as an educator,” he said. “I was able to see him from a student perspective and from a colleague perspective.
“I attribute working with him to a lot of the skills I’ve developed as a teacher.”
Comeau began teaching at WHS in 2007.
At WHS, Comeau is in charge of three concert band ensembles, jazz band ensembles, pep band and marching band.
The jazz bands, pep band and marching band all take place outside the school day, whereas the concert bands take place during the school day.
Some days, Comeau gets to school as early as 7 a.m. and doesn’t leave until close to 10 p.m.
“The hours add up, that’s for sure,” he said.
Comeau said all of the different bands he directs bring something different to the table.
“I love it all,” he said. “You really have to. I enjoy them all for their different aspects.”
However, Comeau said if he had to pick a favorite, he’d have to say the concert band ensembles are his favorite to direct.
“What we do during the school day every day is perhaps the most meaningful for me,” he said. “That’s where my passion is.
“It’s such a joy to get to know a student as an eighth grader and watch them develop as a person and as a musician.”
A deserving teacher
Comeau was nominated for the Educator of the Year award by WHS physical education teacher Terry Suneson.
Suneson said he felt Comeau was deserving of the award because of his dedication to students and WHS.
“I don’t know him as well as most people do, but I know what I see,” he said. “He spends a lot of time outside the school day doing school things – I think that sets him apart from most.”
Even though Suneson and Comeau work in different departments and don’t have much interaction with each other, Suneson said he has witnessed Comeau’s dedication by seeing him before and after school, on weekends and during the summer.
“That is a lot of extra sacrifice that somebody is making for the program and the school,” he said. “I respect him so much for doing that and giving up a lot of his summers to give to the kids.
“He really does give up a lot more than the average teacher would have to give up.”
Comeau said he was humbled by Suneson’s nomination.
“I was real flattered that somebody recognized that my car was parked outside for 16 hours a day,” he said.
In his nomination letter, Suneson said he compared Comeau to the “Energizer Bunny” because he never stops.
“He’s a very good role model for any of the teachers,” he said. “He’s also an outstanding individual besides being a good teacher. He just has that charisma about him that makes him very likable and very approachable.”
Comeau said he loves being a high school band director because he gets to help introduce a whole new generation to the power of music.
“Music is something that lets kids find themselves and find something from within that they didn’t know was there,” he said. “Music is a place to belong and it’s a place for students to feel welcome and express themselves.
“I love getting to make those connections with students and help guide them in their futures.”
Brent Comeau, along with the business and citizen of the year, will be honored during the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala on Jan. 25 at the Prom Center in Oakdale.