MADISON — Students in Laura Manduca’s third-period chorus class at Madison Area Memorial High School got a taste Wednesday of what it would be like to be a professional trumpet player who has toured with the Beach Boys and played in dozens of symphonies and performances around the world.

“If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re going to be constantly looking for something else to do,” trumpet player John Foss told the group of about 10 students. “You have to find something that feeds you emotionally, spiritually and financially.”

Foss, who is a 1954 graduate of Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield and a former music teacher at Erskine Academy in South China, delivered that advice as part of a Careers in the Classroom day at the school.

The event was part of a new initiative organized by Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, a statewide nonprofit that works to help students overcome barriers to education and achieve their goals in higher education and the workforce.

It was funded by a $120,000 grant from Skowhegan Savings Bank that was used to recently hire a new career preparation and financial literacy coordinator to work in Somerset County.

“So many times we hear students walk out of class and say, ‘When am I ever going to use this?'” said Stephany Perkins, a Jobs for Maine’s Graduates specialist at Madison Area Memorial High School. “That’s why today was important. It was great to be in a classroom where someone was relating directly to what they’re learning.”


Tracie Travers, the new Jobs for Maine’s Graduates career preparation and financial literacy coordinator in Somerset County, also said she plans to organize similar events, internship programs and job shadow opportunities for students in Somerset County.

“If Maine wants to be competitive, if we want a strong economy, we need to close the skills gap,” Travers said. “Every student coming out of our high schools needs to have those soft skills that are so valuable to Maine employers — communication and team-building skills, time management, financial literacy. That’s what this initiative is about.”

On Wednesday, teachers at the Madison school were paired up with presenters from the community who work in a field related to what they teach. About 20 presenters participated and spent the day teaching.

In the chorus class, Foss talked about his career as a professional musician, which has included time as an instructor at the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C., where he also played at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy; a 2 1/2-year stint on the road with the Beach Boys; and time with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in New York, where he played alongside and witnessed the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr.

He also taught music for 20 years at Erskine Academy before retiring 12 years ago.

Foss said that while he always knew he wanted to play the trumpet, he knew it was a competitive job market, so he planned to use his teaching degree to pay his bills.


He also prepared himself to play all different types of music.

“I was fortunate enough that music sustained me financially and very well at times,” said Foss, who said he learned to play jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, symphonic and country music. “It all came into play at different times in my life because I was prepared.”

Manduca, the music teacher, said that while only a handful of students go on to careers in music, the lessons they learned from Foss were nonetheless valuable.

“It’s important for students to have different mentors,” she said. “I think they really liked hearing what it was like to be on the road, some of the challenges he faced and how he managed to stay on the straight and narrow.”

“It was interesting,” said Benny Peck, 16, after listening to Foss. “It’s fun to look at what other people do while we’re at school all day and what they’ve been able to do because of their education.”

Wednesday was the first career day the Madison high school has held in recent years, said Principal Bonnie Levesque, but she said the school plans to continue the event next year.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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