Educator Craig Hay said that he feels fortunate to be doing exactly what he wanted from the time he was a kid — teaching music.
Hay has been the band director at Hopkinton High School for about a decade. Previously, he worked at the elementary level in town for 20-plus years.
As subject matter leader in the Music Department, he collaborates with 11 music teachers in Grades K-12. Hay’s duties include administrative work, curriculum construction, performance coordination and “work to keep current in teaching practices.”
Hay said the district has a band, orchestra and chorus at the various grade levels as well as a concert band, pep band, jazz ensemble, jazz lab group and a cappella group called Noteworthy at the high school.
The groups perform in a concert series three times per year and are featured at football games and on holidays like Memorial Day.
The department is supported by the parent-driven Hopkinton Music Association, which provides scholarships for seniors, private lessons, concert attire and more.
“I appreciate what they do, and there are a lot of kids involved in music in Hopkinton,” Hay noted.
Hopkinton High School also offers courses such as music theory, music technology and beginner guitar and hosts a state festival where groups are evaluated and given feedback.
The most challenging aspect of Hay’s role is to adapt to changes in the field.
“It keeps you on your toes,” he said. “Things in education constantly change, so there is always something new you have to learn.”
And the best part?
“I have fun every single day,” he said. “I’m doing what I want to do.”
Hay grew up in Concord and was inspired by his high school music teacher and a middle school teacher who got him thinking about pursuing education as a profession.
He started playing clarinet at age 10 and saxophone shortly thereafter and participated in bands throughout his school years.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his master’s degree from the University of Illinois, majoring in music education.
But as entrenched as he is in the school district’s music program, Hay is equally devoted to his role as director of the Hopkinton Community Summer Band, which is celebrating an important milestone next year.
“It will be our 20th year next summer,” Hay said. “We’re going to try to make it special and invest time in coming up with ideas to make it memorable.”
Hay explained that the band is comprised of approximately 40-50 members, ranging from retiree age to as young as 14.
He took over conducting duties from Steve Yavarow several years ago and is assisted by colleagues Caitlin MacDonald and Dave Purdy, who take the lead when he jumps in to play with the band.
He describes the band as having a “laid-back, relaxed” vibe with different levels of musicianship that is fully accessible and stress-free. No auditions are required; interested musicians can just sign up in the spring and join the fun.
“Some [members] are parents who decided to brush off their instruments after a long while and may be nervous. … Then they realize this is a group where they fit right in and play what they can play, no pressure,” Hay said. “Others are at a higher level and play in other bands as well.”
The community band starts rehearsing in June and plays a concert on the Town Common every summer. This year, they also performed a pregame concert at Polar Park before a Worcester Red Sox minor league baseball game thanks to someone with ties to that organization.
Hay feels like a concert or two each year is the band’s sweet spot, because for some members, the experience goes beyond playing marches, pop songs, selections from Disney, a classical piece and other light fare.
“It’s the social aspect,” he said. “Some people just like seeing each other and spending time together rather than having a desire to play at a lot of places. The students really enjoy playing with other members, and alums come back to see their friends and have fun with it.”
Hay said the community band has lasted so long because members take pride in hearing themselves improve over the course of rehearsals. The opportunity to perform publicly is “always a bonus.”
The support of the town also is crucial to the band’s longevity, Hay added.
“The people in town know it offers a place to play, and they look forward to hearing the concert on the common,” he said.
Next spring, he will be advertising at various outlets for musicians to join and anticipates that the 20th season may feature something extra to celebrate.