Louis Kugelman’s career as a musician and educator has been marked by hard work and persistence at every stage.
He started on clarinet in 4th grade, then switched to tenor saxophone in 7th grade. Taking a music theory class – not many people’s idea of a good time – in 10th grade got him onto the path of making music into his career. “Learning how music works, like chord structures and how it all gets put together, really opened my eyes,” he recalls. “Every time I got a new piece of music, I would notice something different.”
He devoted himself to practicing, but came up short in auditioning for district band in his senior year. Later, he was accepted to Penn State, but missed out on a spot as a music education major. He realized he had gaps in his skill set that he had to work on fixing, and so he spent the summer at Penn State, taking classes and making a case to be accepted into the Music Education program.
His hard work was rewarded, and he earned his spot. As a result of that experience, he says, “I can relate to students who struggle with sight-reading.”
After graduating from Penn State, he worked as an elementary and middle school band director in the Hazelton Area School District. Persistence served him well in this role, too: he was a teacher without a permanent classroom, teaching general music while trying to start up a band program.
Because he taught every family of instruments, both in group lessons and during full-band rehearsals, Louis now owns at least one of every commonly-used band and orchestra instrument – although he’s still lacking an English horn.
When he entered a Ph.D. program at Temple in 2015, he relocated to Philadelphia. “I really made something,” he says, looking back on his time in Hazelton. “When I left, they replaced with me two people.”
In his classroom experience and his time at Settlement, he says what he enjoys the most is “seeing students’ growth over the course of a year.” During the 2016-17 season, when he directed the beginning band at Hardy Williams Elementary through the Music Education Pathways program, he worked with beginning musicians who started the year with little to no formal musical experience. Seeing them perform at the year-end Pathways to Performance made him especially proud.
For the beginning students he’ll teach this year at Carnell Elementary, and his individual students on clarinet and saxophone, Louis will have the same message to share: hard work pays off.