By Grace Delisanti
Mr. Lanighan, the new band teacher this year at East, is an incredible teacher who is not only a great asset to the Williamsville East, but also has roots that trace back to this school in his years as a high schooler. While his story might start and end in Williamsville, Mr. Lanighan hasn’t always been on the path to end up where he is today.
When asked when he first discovered that he loved music he shared a very specific anecdote from the third grade. It was a piano piece that his teacher gave him that taught him how to play with both his left and right hands as well as using the pedal. Mr. Lanighan expressed his love for this piece and that the fundamentals of the piece brought him joy and a sense of accomplishment that he enjoyed. He started to become more serious about music at a young age and while his love for music and the urge to make it a career grew, his parents’ opinion differed.
His dad can be quoted saying “I remember going to places and praying that it was a phase and not a lifestyle.” When asked about this quote Mr. Lanighan expressed that while his parents weren’t “anti music” they weren’t in 100% support of music being his career of choice. They wanted a secure lifestyle for him and didn’t see how music would lead to that. He respected this, but after applying to Geneseo to be a History major and getting deferred, Mr. Lanighan decided to be open to new options involving music. That December Dr. Shewan, the now retired East Wind Ensemble director, called up folks at the Eastman School of Music and was able to get Mr. Lanighan to submit an application even though it was after the deadline! Mr. Lanighan explains that after a while his parents became okay with the idea and encouraged him to pursue music education. He ended up majoring in Music Education and Jazz Studies at the Eastman School of Music.
Interestingly enough Mr. Lanighan quit band in sixth grade and when asking him about that time in his life he described that this was due to a band teacher that he was personally not a fan of. It actually took Mr. Schrieber, the seventh grade band director, calling Mr. Lanighan’s parents and telling them what an asset Lanighan was to the band in order for him to rejoin the following year. Moving out of middle school I asked Mr. Lanighan what solidified the fact that he was going to pursue music in the future. He described that there was a group of upperclassmen that performed around different places throughout the year and they essentially adopted him into their group and his love for music grew with every performance with this group of fellow music lovers.
As previously talked about Dr. Shewan, commonly known as ‘Doc’, was a huge inspiration for Mr. Lanighan and a mentor throughout his time in high school as his teacher and throughout his life. After high school through music school, Doc also changed his perspective on music as a whole. Mr. Lanighan said that “Doc approached music in a way that was different from others, he entered it as a way of life, he lived and breathed it.” While I also had Doc as a teacher I can attest to the fact that his passion for music shines through his teaching and he is an inspiration to every student that he teaches. Doc built the music department up at East to what it is today and became a legend who we were sad to see retire. Stepping into Doc’s shoes this year, I asked Mr. Lanighan how it feels to follow Doc’s legacy and go from a student in our seats to the conductor on the podium. He said that this is a daily struggle for him and he constantly has the irrational thought that things would be better if Doc was still teaching, but Mr. Lanighan recognizes that it is important to think about the amount of time that Doc put into creating that legacy for himself and to remember that legacy comes with time and experience.
When asking Mr. Lanighan when he knew he wanted to teach at East he mentioned his time as a student teacher at East in the year 2015. Mr. Lanighan student taught from October 2015-December 2015 and said that his experience was so enjoyable that he knew that’s where he belonged if he was going to be a teacher. Between getting to see the program from a student perspective throughout his time in the Wind Ensemble and then seeing it from a teacher perspective in 2015, he was able to recognize the credibility of the program and how much he was going to get out of this job. This is his first time in a public school setting, but he has previously taught private lessons and has been an advisor for many music camps over the years. These helped him realize his love for teaching!
While talking about his time in college I inquired about Mr. Lanighan’s favorite professional experience in college and he talked about his tour of Japan! Mr. Lanighan explained that he visited 9 cities in total and had a very rigorous tour schedule. His schedule consisted of playing concerts and then riding the bullet to the next city, exploring, playing a concert and then doing the whole thing over again. He said this experience made it possible for him to see all of Japan which is an incredible experience for a college music education student.
Being the hardworking man that Mr. Lanighan is, he has been able to be successful at most everything that he puts his time and effort into. This translates into being one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and he is a perfect example of someone who worked hard for what they have achieved. Mr. Lanighan said “Whatever I went into I wasn’t going to fail at”. While this isn’t an attitude that he highly encourages, this attitude along with a lot of hard work got him to where he is today.