Striking a New Chord: Dr. Despommier

Helena Abrams, ’16

Who is the musician playing complex piano pieces in the music room between classes? Who is it that everyone keeps calling Dr. D? It is none other than BHSEC’s new music teacher, Dr. Despommier.

Dr. Despommier’s experience with music began at a very early age, and, since his father is a jazz drummer, music was like the wallpaper of his house. Growing up just outside New Orleans, Dr. Despommier attended Archbishop Rummel High School, an all-boys Catholic school. At Archbishop Rummel, he took advantage of every musical opportunity the school provided: he was a member the jazz band, the concert band, and the marching band (which he absolutely loathed). Dr. Despommier played saxophone in the jazz band, which, despite his expert piano skills, is still his main instrument.

After high school, he found his calling was teaching. He studied with an Italian-American composer by the name of Luigi Zaninelli, who inspired him to pursue a career in music education.

Dr. Despommier knew right after his first interview for a teaching position at BHSEC that this was the school for him. He admits that he was most attracted to the school because of the students: at BHSEC, he feels he has a unique opportunity to build up a somewhat lacking music program, and expose his students to many different music styles. He recommends that all students, whether musical or not, seek out music, poetry, and literature, as they are all interconnected.

Now that he is here, Dr. Despommier can be found preparing for his next class, composing and practicing in the music room, browsing the market at Union Square or munching on Belgian waffles at nearby vendors. Dr. Despommier, whose favorite composer is J.S. Bach, is also working on releasing an album of two different song cycles: Coney Island of the Mind and Circus of the Soul. They are a based on a collection of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and he describes the genre of the music as a mix between American vocal music and Gesualdo-like harmonies, using only piano and voice. The album will hopefully be released at the end of the spring semester.

Taking on as much as he can this semester, Dr. Despommier is teaching all of the music classes: introduction to music, music theory, jazz ensemble, chorus, chamber ensemble, and rock ensemble, as well as co-teaching a class on American musical theatre. He hopes to add more classes later on in the year, as well as more afterschool programs. The main goal is to get all students who want a way to express themselves artistically involved in the music program. There is a place for everyone, and as Dr. Despommier said himself, “Art provides a vehicle for expressing your inner-most thoughts.”

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