Matthew Cunningham’s career isn’t just located in Brockton, his career is devoted TO Brockton. Born and raised in the “City of Champions”, Matthew is currently the choral director at Brockton High School (BHS), the same high school he attended himself in his youth, and where he decided to make a life filled with music and theatre. His desire to teach and encourage other young music students in inner city schools led him running back to his hometown and the halls of his alma mater.
Now in his 4th year at BHS, Matthew follows in a long family tradition of careers in the Brockton school system. He is a fourth generation lifelong Brocktonian, and a third generation Brockton Public Schools employee, who credits his parents and grandparents for instilling in him the importance of teaching.
Matt’s love for music and performing developed at an early age. Despite having tried every sport his mother could sign him up for, it took until taking early lessons playing the clarinet and engaging in voice lessons in the fourth grade for Matt to find his passion. In high school, he completed two years of chorus and two years of band, continuing with voice lessons that built upon his musical talents.
Matt went on to attend Providence College where he pursued a music education degree, inspired and enthused by his own music teacher, Vincent Macrina. Matt credits Macrina (who now in his 45th year teaching, continues to lead the music department at BHS) with inspiring him to pursue teaching, sharing: “He instills discipline and drive, but makes it fun. He has very high expectations but manages to inspire kids to reach their fullest potential.”
While at Providence College, Matt was the tenor section leader of the select choir, I Cantori, conductor of the Schola Cantorum at St. Dominic Chapel, and music director for many theatre productions. He has had the privilege of studying with Dr. T.J. Harper, David Harper, Dr. Sang Woo Kang, Dr. Michele Holt, and Lin Schuller. Attending Providence College allowed him the small school atmosphere offering more hands-on opportunities to explore and appreciate all aspects of the performing arts. Student teaching during his senior year provided Matt the classroom experience at every different age level, but he knew in his heart that the high school environment was where he wanted to teach.
Matt’s days at BHS certainly never end when the last bell rings. In addition to conducting the Repertory Chorus, Concert Choir, and teaching piano classes during the school day, he oversees three choral ensembles after school – Brockappella, Chamber Singers and Harmonics, each offering students of diverse ages and abilities a chance to share their love of music, and grow together as an ensemble. Giving his students something to be passionate about is what drives Matt day in and day out. He hopes that his classes enrich his students not only as musicians, but as members of the Brockton community.
“My strong music education background made the quality of my daughters’ own experience an important priority to our family. Alexis joined the music program and has been challenged, stimulated, motivated, and supported. Korina started high school last year, and she practices and practices and practices, non-stop,” shares Monique Kotsiopoulos, a Brockton parent.
“Matt is a dedicated and gifted educator. He invests an extraordinary amount of time and effort into his curriculum, assists his students in making decisions with perspective, and inspires them to achievement. He has been instrumental in their development and confidence in pursuing careers in music.”
~ Monique Kotsiopoulos
“Music is a release”, says Cunningham. “It has the ability to wash away all the pain of whatever else is going on at school, or at home. It brings a sense of community to these kids, and we really are a family.” So much of BHS’ offerings allow the kids to make connections. For more than 25 years, a collaboration with the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra of Boston allows BHS students to participate in their Collaborative Youth Concerts annually. Cunningham also has plans to continue to grow that family, with a vision to expand the choral program at BHS; offering more music literacy opportunities, the creation of a multi-cultural ensemble, and even a performance tour.
Matt experienced a rare privilege when his own high school teacher became a colleague. Bob Hogan, the current theatre director at BHS describes Matt as a gift.
“He is absolutely devoted and loyal to his profession, probably one of the most loyal teachers in all of Brockton. The long hours he keeps day and night to meet the needs of his students are a testament to his passion. He always goes to great lengths to meet the needs of Brockton students.”
~ Bob Hogan
Matt is an active member of ACDA, NAfME, MMEA, and RIMEA, and has served as an adjudicator for the SEMMEA and All Cape music festivals. He is the manager for the 2017 Southeastern Massachusetts Senior District Chorus, and in March 2017, he will conduct the Rhode Island All State Junior Treble Chorus. He also maintains BHS’s 25+ year annual collaboration with Handel and Haydn Society’s Collaborative Youth Concerts.
When asked what he most hopes his students will come away from their experience in his programs, he becomes thoughtful. “I love this profession; every day is different, and that is what makes it so enjoyable.”
“I really have the opportunity to transform an individual’s life. I don’t expect every student to walk away after four years and become the next Mozart or Beethoven – if they do, that’s wonderful! But if they walk away after four years with more compassion, more love, and more goodness, then I will consider it a job well done.”
~ Matthew Cunningham
Additionally, Matt keeps busy as a freelance accompanist and musical director for local theatre companies, including the Little Theatre of Fall River and The Company Theatre of Norwell. He also serves as music director at St. Ann’s Church in West Bridgewater.
Photos: Images courtesy of Matt Cunningham and Marc Vasconcellos, The Enterprise
Top Left: Matt as a young clarinet student in middle school practicing at home.
Top Right: Matt performing as ‘Moonface Martin’ in the BHS Spring Musical “Anything Goes”
Middle Left: Conducting Concert Choir in rehearsal for 2016 ACDA performance
Middle Right: BHS & Boston Arts Academy Students in rehearsal for 2015 Handel & Haydn Collaborative Youth Concerts
Lower Middle Left: Matthew Cunningham, Music Educator
Lower Middle Right: Bryant Vasquez ’16, Joey Polvere ’19, Caleb St. Surin ’16, Marc Cawley Bercy ’18, Nathaniel Smith ’16 at 2016 MMEA All State Festiva
Bottom Left: Conducting Concert Choir during BHS Pops Concert – May 2016