Peck Brings Professional Music Experience to NHS, Inspires Her Students to Never Give Up

Allison Roche, Arts Reporter

WOODBURY — This year, Nonnewaug High School had the pleasure of welcoming Abigail Peck, the new chorus teacher, to join our school again.  A former Nonnewaug student herself, Peck has first-hand experience of what it is like being a student in the NHS music program. 

Peck has previous experience teaching, including teaching in her own music studio and has been teaching music at Woodbury Middle School since 2019.

“I have been a certified music teacher since 2006. Prior to teaching at Nonnewaug, I was running my own private music studio called Evolution of Music, which I opened back in 2017,” she said.

“I was running classes and teaching a variety of music lessons, such as brass instruments, percussion instruments, piano, and voice. I also offered tutoring in music theory, history, and appreciation.  In 2019, I began teaching choral music at WMS while continuing to teach private lessons in my spare time.”

When Peck was a student herself, she was very involved in the school community and got the most out of her experience when she was a Nonnewaug Chief. 

“I was very involved as a student, playing sports (tennis, basketball, and skiing). I played a whole lot of music in band, chorus, and jazz ensemble. I also competed in regional and all-state festivals,” she explained. “In addition to that, I was extremely active in student government. In eighth grade, I was elected student council president, and then I was elected again my senior year of high school at Nonnewaug. Throughout high school, I worked 4-5 nights a week at the Good News Cafe to save for college.”

She was encouraged by her teachers to begin teaching herself, which is how she discovered her passion for teaching.

“When I was in high school, I had some great music teachers. They encouraged me to work hard at music a little bit each day. I followed their advice, and that choice inspired me to want to study music education,” Peck continued. 

“I knew from that point on that I wanted to share the gift of music with as many students as I possibly could,” she said. “There is nothing like creating music with an ensemble.”

Unfortunately, Peck endured some struggles in her life. Although it has impacted her life in a negative way, she has been able to find the good and make the most of it.

“Something that I have accomplished that I feel proud of is never giving up,” she said. “In 2011, just after the birth of my son, I was diagnosed with a medical condition that forced me to step away from teaching for some time. I was much too sick to attend work, and I was spending a great deal of time in and out of the hospital.”

“After working with my doctors, we finally found a medical treatment that helped my condition.  I was very excited and ready to come back to work, only to find out that the medication I was taking had crippled my immune system, and I could not fight off so much as even the common cold,” she continued. 

“Doctors suggested that I should stay out of schools where germs spread rapidly (especially singing and playing wind instruments) and not continue teaching,” she said. “I assured them that would not be an option for me because teaching is my passion. While I do still receive the same medical treatments for the last 10 years, I also continue to educate.”

“This reminds me daily to teach my students to never give up in spite of the obstacles they may face,” she added. “Set your goals and smash ’em.”

Prior to becoming a teacher, Peck was an accomplished musician.

“One thing that I feel my students may not know about me is that I am actually an accomplished brass player [and have] competed on an intercollegiate level,” she said. “[I have] also performed with groups such as the Danbury Brass Band and the Westchester Symphonic Winds on Broadway.”

Todd Gorski, who is a former music teacher at NHS and current music teacher at WMS, had a lot to say about Ms. Peck, who he first heard about while student teaching at Western Connecticut State University in 2002. 

“A new student transferred to the music department, and all my best friends started talking about how cool she was. She played in their brass band and was with them all the time,” said Gorski. 

“I was student teaching that semester,” he recalled. “So I was at Danbury High School all day (and night) while my friends were still taking classes at WestConn. I regretted never being able to meet her, especially since they all talked about her for years.”

“Fast forward almost 20 years … Abigail Peck was hired to join the music faculty at WMS teaching chorus,” he continued. “I went to introduce myself, and she told me she knew who I was. I could not believe it when she explained that we had many close mutual friends, yet had never actually met.  Life sometimes works in mysterious ways!”

Gorski and Peck’s friendship has strengthened since the Covid-19 pandemic, and he talks about how impressed he is with her teaching.

“I have greatly enjoyed working with Ms. Peck. Pre-Covid, I played piano for the choral concert at WMS and was very impressed with the way she prepared students for the concert,” stated Gorski. “She has a way of holding them to high standards while still being kind, caring, supportive, and inclusive. She embraces many different instruments and styles of music.”  

“In the past couple years we have had many conversations and a ton of laughs, especially since we have so many close friends in common.  I can immediately see why they enjoyed spending time with her all those years ago,” he added. 

Gorski continued,“I am excited that she chose to share her passion for music with a new generation of students here.  I am thrilled that students are able to get to know a great person who will surely leave an impact on them for years to come.”

Not only is Peck valued by her coworkers, but also her students. Nargis Meghani, a junior at NHS, spoke about her favorite aspects of Ms. Peck.

“I love Ms. Peck’s energy. It’s absolutely amazing how she is always so positive and so supportive of everyone, especially her students,” said Meghani. “She’s super funny. I can’t stop laughing whenever I’m in her class!”

2020 has taken a lot from teachers, but Peck has still been able to help students through this tough time.

“[This year] has been pretty difficult, but Mrs. Peck made this year a whole lot easier to deal with,” said Meghani. “Her listening to us, being empathetic, and her just being there for us is what really got me through virtual learning and the whole shift. I really appreciate and am grateful for a teacher like Mrs. Peck!”

Students really love and enjoy Peck’s class. “I honestly love everything about Mrs. Peck’s teaching,” said Meghani. “But if I had to choose one thing, I love how she always tries to connect her students and their interests to what we’re learning,” Meghani explained. 

“There is never a class where we don’t have a fun time. For my birthday, Mrs. Peck and the whole class sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, which was a huge surprise. … It made my whole day,” recalled Meghani. 

As for Peck, she also enjoys her time with students in the classroom. She said, “I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love while being granted the opportunity to work with amazing students.”