By Lisa Capobianco
Since the seventh grade, Southington resident John Mastroianni knew he wanted to become a professional musician and a music teacher. By time he reached high school, Mastroianni never doubted he wanted to have an impact on students similar to the way his own music teachers influenced him.
“I never wanted to do anything else,” Mastroianni said.
Today he has become an acclaimed composer, saxophonist, and arranger, as well as the director of bands at William Hall High School in West Hartford.
An educator for 32 years, Mastroianni recently receiv-ed the title of Conn-ecticut’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.
“I was really in shock,” said Mastroianni, who performs with his own quartet and leads his own 16-piece jazz orchestra. “This is the most significant achievement—it is humbling.”
Chosen among four finalists, Mastroianni underwent a rigorous selection process, including on-site visits, observations, interviews and candidate applications, all conducted by a statewide council of former Teachers of the Year and representatives from education organizations, businesses, and the community, according to a press release from the Connecticut State Department of Education.
“It is an honor to recognize an educator as distinguished and talented as John Mastroianni,” said Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor in the release. “Mr. Mastroianni identifies and fosters the artistry in every young person and, in so doing, inspires life-long learning in our students.”
Mastroianni also works as an adjunct jazz faculty member at the University of Connecticut, and started a summer jazz workshop for young artists.
He has also taught at New York University, the University of Bridgeport, Albertus Magnus College and New Canaan High School. In 2004, Mastroianni received the title of the Secondary School Teacher of the Year from the Conne-cticut Music Educators Asso-ciation, according to the release.
Haig Shahverdian, a former supervisor of Fine and Performing Arts for the West Hartford schools, has known Mastroianni for years, co-producing the high school’s annual production of “Pops ‘n Jazz.” Calling his colleague a compassionate individual, Shahverdian said working with Mastroianni is an honor.
“John is the most humbling person you could ever know,” Shahverdian said. “He goes out of his way to be helpful and caring.”
The band director said he not only enjoys making music, but he also takes pleasure in inspiring young artists in the classroom, developing a close relationship with his students.
“You have such a profound affect on the kids you work with everyday,” said Mastroianni, who also taught at the New York State Summer School for the Arts and Bridgeport Central High School. “That is such an amazing thing—I have always wanted to give back.”
As Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year, Mastroianni said he will have the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama and the U.S. Secretary of Education in the spring. He also becomes Connecticut’s representative for National Teacher of the Year, whom President Obama will select next March.