By Alexandra Molnar, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Former Westborough resident Eugene Cantera's lifelong fascination with music has led him to a hobby, a career, and most recently a trip to Australia where he spent a week as an artist in residence at the Wilderness School in Adelaide.
Music has always been part of Cantera's life. As a child he remembers playing music to entertain his family. He has pictures of himself imitating Louis Armstrong. He was good at making music, but his favorite part was enjoying the reaction from his family members. It was their praise that encouraged him.
“When you get that feedback, it's something you want to keep excelling at,” Cantera said.
Eventually Cantera recognized that he had a talent for music and began to pursue it seriously when he moved to Westborough from New Jersey in 1970. He studied saxophone at Robinson Music in Westborough, and, after graduating from Westborough High School, earned a degree in music education at the University of Hartford.
Cantera attributes his serious interest and passion for music to the music program at Westborough High School. He appreciated what he called a “family atmosphere” within the program. He has a distinct memory of taking a break from practicing during the summer after his junior year; he was tired of the practice routine and was questioning if he wanted to pursue music. As soon as he attended his first jazz band rehearsal of the year, though, he immediately wondered why he had bothered to stop playing.
“I just liked it. It was something that you'se good at that you get positive feedback out of and it's self-fulfilling,” Cantera said.
It was a trip to Dallas, Texas that presented a new career opportunity for the young music educator. Cantera happened to visit the newly opened Dallas School of Music (DSM) which only offers one-to-one private lessons. Cantera said that he was “never cut out for teaching at a traditional school,” and “really enjoyed the dynamic of one-on-one lessons.” He recognized that the Dallas School of Music was a good fit for him, so he moved to Dallas and has been working there for about 20 years. He teaches many different instruments and develops music book content for all instruments.
Cantera describes his colleagues at the Dallas School of Music as “kindred spirits.”
“We don's sell instruments, we sell music education because that's what we'se passionate about,” Cantera said.
The Dallas School of Music also sells digital music books, the series entitled “Discover, Learn, Play,” about which Cantera writes a blog. Through the blog, Cantera connected with a choir teacher from the Wilderness School, and was offered the opportunity to participate in their artist-in-residence program in May.
The Wilderness School is an all-girls private school with grades kindergarten to 12. It was founded in 1884 and draws students from all around the world. Among other courses, the music department offers music theory and songwriting classes, and Cantera was surprised by the interest that the students have in these courses.
“They have this real sense of tradition, excellence, and can-do attitude, but it's mixed with a really friendly vibe without any snobbery,” Cantera said.
While in Adelaide, Cantera spent one week playing with the various music ensembles, teaching lessons, exploring the city, and performing at a jazz concert.
Cantera's week ended with a three-hour concert that involved all of the school's ensembles. One of Cantera's most vivid memories from his trip was the saxophone solo he played in the opening piece, which he refers to as Australia's unofficial national anthem: “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS, an Australian band. The audience erupted with applause, he remembered.
Besides teaching, which Cantera believes is his life's calling, he performs with a “70s band called The Captain and Camille, in which he plays saxophone and percussion and sings.
“If you'se lucky enough to find something when you'se really little that can hold your interest for 50, 60, 70, 80 years, you'se in good shape,” Cantera said.