Mr. Messemer: Did You Know?


Metta Pollio

Hearing Mr. Messemer’s voice whether he’s singing or greeting you in the hallway will always make your day. Read on to learn about our chorus teacher who makes NSMS so great.

Why did you decide to become a chorus teacher? 

Okay, and we’re rolling. How many weeks you got? Good question. I will give a detailed answer, but also, not go too long. Really good question. So I always loved singing. I would say I had really good experiences in school chorus, definitely. My experiences in middle school were in a good choral program. I was encouraged by my teachers, I was encouraged by the kids around me. I just felt like a music kid. So school chorus was definitely one initial reason. I also did something called Jimena Youth Chorale. It’s kind of like some kids do MIO. It’s like an extracurricular, you know, chorus thing. It was like all of Suffolk County kids. So I did that for part of high school. That was another ingredient.

True story, though. I did not major in music in college at first, I majored in Biology. I’m into science as well as other things too. I love history as well. I loved a lot of school subjects, not all of them. But I definitely am not a math person. It doesn’t mean I don’t like math, I’m just not particularly good at it. But I like a lot of different subjects. And I was thinking doctor, I was thinking science or maybe like scientist type person. I did that for a year. And then I realized, this doesn’t really feel right. I was really good at science in high school, but I realized in my first year of college, that it wasn’t the thing. So I decided to switch majors to a music major. And then, yeah, I pretty soon switched to a music major. Then I found my way into the music-ed world. Now there’s also another big reason. I have taught music at a summer camp since age 16. So, I was already a music teacher as a 16-year-old high school kid. And I was teaching elementary kids beginner voice, beginner guitar, beginner piano. So all of a sudden, when I was in college, I go wait a minute, I’ve already been doing this thing for years. And I love it. What if I just do this full-time? What if this is my calling? And then so that was definitely an influence as well. I’d say those are the reasons. 

 I guess you already answered this, but what did you do before North Shore Middle School?

Picking up where I left off: I was a bio major for my first year of college. Then I did two things. I actually switched schools because I wanted a school with a better music department. Then I switched majors. So basically, I ended up doing five years of undergrad. None of what I had done in my freshman year in bio transferred over to my new degree path. So I was young for my grade and still graduated at 21. But anyway, I did five years of undergrad. And I think it was a great experience to do the thing that wasn’t the right thing, ultimately, and then realize that and then switch. I think a lot of kids put a lot of pressure on themselves like they have to know the rest of their life at 18. I really didn’t. But I figured it out. I graduated from college with a Music Education degree. Basically, you have to, you know, have two choices: you go right into a job, or you do something else. I did something else.

I decided I wanted to go somewhere abroad in the world and see the world. And I took a job teaching English in Japan. I went there right after college, and I started teaching there. I was originally going to teach there for just one year, but one year turned into three years. So, I taught there for three years. Part of me wanted to just stay forever, I love it there. I had an amazing time there, and I still go there all the time. My spouse, my wife is Japanese, and her family lives there, so I go there a lot. I’m still connected to Japan, but I almost just like never came back to the United States. And never became a music teacher at all. That’s how much I loved it there. But I said you know, I went and got this degree. I’m really a musician inside and I wasn’t able to just be a music teacher there in Japan because you know, I didn’t go to school there. So my career options were really limited there. I loved what I was doing, but I knew that if I kept doing that forever, I would get bored with it. It wouldn’t be cool, like as a long-term thing. So I came back in my mid-20s, about 25. I came back, and then I got my job in North Shore. So that was 15 years ago. 

That’s really cool. Next question, why did you choose to come to North Shore?

Really good question. Why North Shore? Well, you know, I’m very lucky. I think, North Shore is a great place to work. It’s a great place to teach; it’s a great place to be. There are many great places to teach, and this is one of them. So you know, I got the call. You want the job? Yes. It was interesting because there was another school that wanted to hire me. And that superintendent called me on the same day that Dr. Melnick did, who passed away last year, sadly. He called me on the same day as this other school, and I actually had a choice. I was like, do I go with this school or that school? And the other school was a really good school district as well. But I said you know what, North Shore is the one. Why North Shore? Some teachers asked me why  middle school?  I like middle school. I think I could also be a high school person, and I am, I do teach one class at the High School. I teach a music theory class there. And I could easily be a high school choir person, for sure, for sure. And I love what I do here at the middle school. I think I could be an elementary teacher, you know because, in other words, music teachers are certified to teach kindergarten through 12th grade. We technically could do any of that. However, I don’t think elementary is where my strength is. The older ages are where my jam is. The other position, though, was an elementary position. So I was like, middle school is the one for me. And yeah, I don’t regret it. 

That’s interesting to hear. So, what is your favorite part of teaching at North Shore?

Wow, there are so many things I could say. There are a lot of good things. I would say one idea is, you know, this developed over time, but I feel like, North Shore is a community, I feel like the music department is a community. I feel like there’s an atmosphere. I mean, there are some big, big districts, huge schools with thousands of kids, and maybe people don’t know each other as well. But I feel like there’s a community environment here in the school, and it’s true in the building.  We are given the green light to do things, to take risks to try things, think outside the box, whereas other schools might be like, “you got to do this.” I feel like we are encouraged to try various things. So that’s another perk. 

What do you do outside of being the chorus teacher? Like, what are your hobbies?

 I’m into exercising, you know, for my health, but also because it’s fun. And my sport is mainly cycling. I’m into riding my bike. You know, I dabble in running, but I don’t really run out on any kind of frequent basis. But, you know, a few times a year I lace up the sneakers and go out and run. But I’m into cycling and outdoor stuff. Cycling is one way to go outside and get into nature. I like hiking too. Although I don’t hike as much because you know, there’s hiking on Long Island, but you got to try and come join. Yeah, so I went around mountains and stuff, I’ll definitely go hiking. 

I do yoga, although not as much as I used to. I got really into yoga in my 20s.  I’ve done many thousands of hours of yoga.  Why do I do yoga? When I was in my last year of college, I was 21, having constant headaches. I was having all these, not health issues, but headaches and tension. I had already been into cycling since I was a teenager.  I was definitely riding my bike a lot and never stretching and I was really tight. So like tight shoulders, tight legs, tight hips, like tight everything. And one day, I just like, rode past this yoga studio. And I was like, Oh, I gotta try that. And I just went the next day, and that was history. I felt like I took this amazing medicine, I didn’t take anything I just took the class. So I’ve been doing yoga since I was in my early 20s, that’s another big thing I do.

I like to take walks, I take walks with my wife. That’s a fun thing we do. And she rides the bike too, but not nearly like me. So we take walks a lot, though, so that’s nice. Yeah, walks, biking, yoga, hiking, and stuff like that. I’m into music, but like, you know, especially since COVID happened, I’m not going to concerts on any kind of regular basis. Like, I used to do that, you know, more years ago. But, you know, I’m not schlepping into Manhattan to see shows. But in terms of hobbies, and just like things, obviously, I’m a music teacher, I’m a musician.  Music is definitely a part of my private life, too. It’s not like I don’t do music outside of school, but I would say besides music, it’s  those things. 

Thanks, Mr. Messemer for speaking with The Viking Voice.