To the Editor:
I felt it important to comment and offer some reflection in regards to the recent passing of Ted McAndrew — a popular, and influential music/band teacher and baseball/football coach in Trumbull during the 1970s-80s. Many revered him.
It was “different times” to be sure, and here was a teacher who inspired and motivated his students to go “above and beyond”. The results were extraordinary. His junior high bands (it was grades 7-9 then) at Middlebrook then Madison, performed some of the best and most difficult of the band music written, and won top honors in yearly adjudication festivals that many high schools could not match today. That’s not an exaggeration. Few young bands are able to perform works by Vincent Persichetti, Eric Osterling, Leroy Anderson, Gustav Holst and others in their original forms- not re-arranged and simplified. McAndrew’s bands of these years were able to do that.
Yes, there were before school rehearsals, after school rehearsals, and of course during school. There was a constant thread of high expectations. Hard work was expected and your self-esteem was earned through achievement. With his trumpet by his side, he would help you learn the extremely challenging music in any way he could. By rote, aurally, orally, or visually-whatever it took to help you learn he would do. The key here is that Mr. McAndrew inspired and made you WANT to go home and practice your instrument. He motivated you through competition with your peers, constant high expectations, and also a steadfast belief in your relative individual abilities. Many students of modest ability produced wonderful results. He taught to the highest and lowest achievers, and using today’s educational parlance “differentiated” for all learners. I speak for myself, but I never felt threatened by his competitive style.
It was cool to be in band back then. The best athletes were some of the best players in the band! He was also Coach McAndrew to some us too if you played football (I played in 9th grade) or baseball. He and Coach Ray Faustich, another great teacher/coach then, made a good coaching team together, and it was all about “pride in what you do”.
For those of us who showed extra interest, Ted would take us to shows, concerts and jazz festivals. I got to see such famous artists such as Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald and more because of Ted. Some of us went on to become music teachers and band directors and we all definitely point to Ted as a model of inspiration.
Mr. McAndrew went on to direct the high school band for a couple years before moving to Florida. I can’t speak to that period, as I was out of school by then. I know he did his best, and helped propel the high school into its more competitive marching era that most folks in town are familiar with, although I know he lamented the fact that some musical aspects of band were being shunned in favor of marching. I also know he was a valiant “cancer fighter”. Whether or not cancer was what ultimately claimed him at the relatively young age of 71, some of us are still trying to find out, as details from Florida are few right now.
Yes, it was “different times” to be sure, and whether better in some ways is a matter of opinion. Some of the teaching methods are not used now, and you can’t pile students into your car to go see Buddy Rich play in New York City! But I remember it all quite fondly.
My experience was that I knew Ted McAndrew to be a fine, friendly, kind, hard working, inspiring man.
RIP Mr. McAndrew.
Chris Coulter,
Trumbull High Class of ’75
Band Teacher with New Canaan Public Schools
and Trumbull Summer Band Camp