Retiring educator continues sharing passion for musical theater
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Completing a 35-year career in education, including 16 years as the Shrewsbury district director of music and drama, Bonnie Narcisi is retiring when this school year ends. But the final curtain hasn’t been drawn yet for her musical theater productions.
“I’m sure musical theater will always be a strong part of my life,” she said. “It’s my passion.”
Narcisi’s love of music began when she taught herself to play piano at age 4. After taking piano lessons, she also learned to play clarinet and saxophone. While in high school, she performed in musical theater productions, and did double-duty as the piano accompanist.
“The director wasn’t a pianist,” she explained. “I tended to get supporting roles so that I could be free to play piano.”
As her interest in musical theater developed, so did consideration to pursue a career in education.
“I debated whether to go into performance or teaching,” she said. “I figured I could always perform, so I might as well get my teaching degree. I taught piano at a very young age and it financed some of my college expenses.”
Immediately after college, Narcisi began teaching music for various grade levels in Townsend, Southbridge and Webster. Along the way, she gained more experience directing and producing theater.
The next credit on her resume is the Shrewsbury district director of music. Soon afterward, her responsibilities also included district director of drama.
“We’ve expanded with theater quite a bit over the years,” she said. “We now offer drama in grade seven as a class and we have several theater electives in the high school.”
Also, a full-scale musical production is presented annually at Shrewsbury High School (SHS), as well as Oak and Sherwood middle schools. Competitive plays are held annually at SHS.
Musical offerings have also been added to the SHS curriculum and extracurricular activities.
“We now have four choirs instead of two; and different levels of bands, the concert band and wind ensemble, as well as jazz band,” Narcisi noted. “We still have one orchestra, but we’re working on that. And a lot of classes got added including music theory and electronic music.”
Narcisi acknowledges that there was one cutback during her tenure. Instrumental lessons are now conducted after school for a fee. Previously, lessons were given simultaneously for various instruments during the day.
“I didn’t like how the lessons were structured,” she said. “The quality of the lessons is now much better with students getting individual attention.”
Lending a hand with the afterschool program and the district’s productions are members of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, of which Narcisi is co-advisor with Michael Lapomardo.
Narcisi also instructs the SHS A Cappella Choir. She appreciates how these students have followed her direction and independently work on assignments.
“As a teacher, you’ve done an excellent job if the kids don’t need you anymore,” she said.
For several years, Narcisi and Lapomardo produced Shrewsbury Musical Theatre, a summer camp for grades eight through 12. When those performers progressed to college and returned during summer break, they expressed to Narcisi that Shrewsbury should have a community theater company for their age group.
“I told them that I’d work on a community theater when I retire,” Narcisi said, “but they talked me into doing it earlier.”
In 2010, Narcisi was a founding board member of the Regatta Players. She’s set to direct its production of “Godspell” in August at the Flanagan Theatre in Southgate at Shrewsbury. That’s where auditions will be held Sunday, May 18, 2 to 5 p.m.; and Monday, May 19, 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.regattaplayers.com.
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