All Jazzed Up at Woodbury Middle School

Jazz Band Director Is Teacher of the Year, Gets $10,000

by Judy Wakefield

Patrick Moeschen receiving the Teacher of the Year award presented by Wal-Mart.

Music teacher Patrick Moeschen knows the iPods belonging to his middle school students carry a lot of top-40 hip-hop songs.

Any other classic rock musician (he’s a drummer) with two degrees — a bachelors in music education and a masters in counseling — would most likely cringe when checking out the iPod song lists of today’s middle-schoolers.  But not Mr. Moeschen.  He connects to those kids.

“That’s what it is all about — connecting.  We talk about melody and lyrics for all sorts of songs.  If you connect to their music and respect it, they will listen to you,” he explained when asked about his teaching style.  “I make it fun, too.”

It’s a winning strategy as Moeschen has received this year’s coveted Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year for New Hampshire.  He was recognized last week (October 18) in a surprise ceremony at Woodbury Middle School, where he has been for the past 13 years.  The award comes with a $10,000 prize for his school.

He described himself as a true Salem townie, as he grew up in town, graduated from Sacred Heart, then University of Massachusetts – Lowell, and still lives in town.  A classic rock music fan, he favors Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Rush.  He also gives private lessons to aspiring drummers around the Red Sox schedule, as he is an avid fan.

Articulate and very popular among colleagues and students, he is humble about his award, saying he feels lucky to have a job he loves in a school district that cares about the performing arts.

“Salem cares about music.  This town supports us and it’s great,” he said.  “It’s a well-rounded education for kids in Salem.”

He teaches music appreciation and is the band director.  His jazz band rehearses every Friday after school and 25 kids faithfully show up.  The jazz band has to hold tryouts as it’s very popular.  It caught the eye of New Hampshire public television last year and was featured in a segment.

What’s even more impressive is that Moeschen is directing that band from a wheelchair.  His affliction is muscular dystrophy, he said, explaining that his muscles weaken as his life wears on.  He’s got Becker’s MD and it is not fatal, just progressive.  He could walk until four years ago but, like a comeback rock ‘n roller, he doesn’t dwell on those days.  Rather, his life is all about today.

Every September, Woodbury’s new sixth-graders stare at this wheelchair-bound music teacher, but in true Moeschen style, he connects to those kids quickly.  He candidly opens up to them, answering any question.

No, his MD does not hurt.  Yes, he drives thanks to a special board that helps him get in and out of his car.  And, a crew of eighth-graders is always waiting for him when he drives into work every morning.

“They help me get out of my car,” he said.

Single, he lives independently in a house next door to his mother, Helen Moeschen.  (His father died of cancer in 1993.)  His customized home has lower counters and door knobs, while a special bench helps him get into the shower.

It’s important to show kids that life can be challenging, he said, and people have to make the adjustments to handle it.  He is proof.

Moeschen is just as connected with the MD research and fundraising scene.  He speaks often at fundraisers and is visiting Amsterdam next month to check out a state-of-the-art electric wheelchair.  He also visited Australia to keep up on the latest MD research.

The Wal-Mart award marks his third teaching recognition as he was named the town’s teacher of the year and also received the same award from the local Rotary Club.

If teaching should become too strenuous for his body, he now has a masters degree in counseling.  He would hope to work with middle-schoolers.

“I really like this age group,” he said.  “The kids make my job fun.”

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K-9 Drug Sweep at Salem High School

by Andrea Ganley-Dannewitz

Police and K9 unit gear up for drug search.

Some of Salem High Schools’ athletes had surprise visitors during practice on Thursday, October 18.  Just before 4 p.m. while the teens were out in the fields practicing and warming up, six police cruisers came rolling into the faculty parking area.  Among them were three Salem cruisers along with dog teams from Rochester, Londonderry, and State Police as they unleashed a surprise drug sweep on the athletes’ locker rooms.

No drugs were found.

Apparently bringing in the dogs was enough to get the message sent. “Salem High School conducted its own questioning of athletes and we have no suspects.  No further investigation is needed,” said Deputy Police Chief Bill Ganley.

Ganley said police acted after school Resource Officer Matt Norcross received anonymous information regarding drug and alcohol issues among athletes.  The possibility of an athlete being involved in distribution of illegal substances also was part of the anonymous tip.

In response, a team of police dogs was organized to conduct the surprise sweep.  The search did not turn up any drugs though there were three “hits” by the dogs during the search.

The search lasted about a half-hour. 

Salem Police, Rochester Police, Londonderry Police, and the State Police at Salem High School for K9 drug search on athletes.

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Off-Season?  Canobie Lake Park Gets Ready for Next Summer!

by Judy Wakefield

The Canopies have been removed from gondola basket which then were wrapped for the winter.

The chains dangle in the wind as the swings are already packed away.  The frame of the Corkscrew is stacked neatly in a roofed pavilion while the 20 ferris wheel gondolas are wrapped tightly in plastic as their tops are also packed away.

It’s off-season at Canobie Lake Park in Salem, and while the amusement park’s 50 rides have been silent since closing last month (September 23), the year-round staff of 35 people has been anything but silent.  They are already gearing up for the 2008 opening scheduled for next spring.  Several state safety inspectors will be here for two full days in April, and this park promises to be ready as usual.

“6 a.m., the day after we close, is when the park starts getting ready for the next season,” said Chris Nicoli, Canobie’s marketing manager.  “We have to.  There’s what we call ‘winterizing’ - ride refurbishing, painting, all sorts of maintenance; a lot to do.”

On a golf cart tour of the quiet grounds last week where only peacocks and year-round staffers roamed, Nicoli reflected on the park’s long history in town.

Castaway Island is drained and being wrapped much of the top will be removed.

Canobie Lake Park opened in 1902 as a botanical garden-themed park, accessible by trolley, and has stayed true to those roots over the past 100-plus years.

“That’s why our park is so well-landscaped.  We take landscaping very seriously.  It’s part of the park’s history,” Nicoli said.

In fact, this year’s new front entrance makeover with a 22-foot popcorn kiosk and much more room for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to map out their ride destinations once inside the park, meant two large trees had to be removed.  Those trees were replanted nearby on the grounds.

“Trees are everywhere here.  We take care of them,” Nicoli said.

He calls the park’s development since the turn of the century “slow and steady” — a business theme that has stayed intact for 105 years.  There are no plans to veer off course from that “slow and steady” way of thinking.  While many other amusement parks have closed in those 105 years, Canobie’s managers say business is good and there are no plans to change anything.  The only change visitors can expect next year is a new no-smoking policy.  Smoking will be limited to designated areas.

“We have deep roots here.  Families who visit and our board love this park the way it is,” Nicoli said.

Another subtle change was this year’s removal of the in-ground swimming pool.  It was removed to make way for that front entrance makeover.  The interactive water play area - Castaway Island - opened this year.  As a result, guests can still keep cool and play in the water on a hot summer day.  “We had the pool for many, many years but decided it was time to update.  We improve where and when we can,” Nicoli said.

The park prides itself on being a memory maker for guests.  That may sound old-fashioned, but so are two of the most popular rides at the park — the merry-go-round and the Yankee Cannonball roller coaster.  That old-fashioned-ness keeps guests coming back.

“People tell us that they remember going on those rides with their grandparents and parents and now they are taking their kids.  We like to hear that,” said Tim Pearse, the operations manager who oversees the inside of the park.

The Yankee Cannonball dates back to 1932 when it was purchased from an amusement park in Connecticut.  It took four years to properly restore it.  The coaster has been chugging up and then down its white track at Canobie and thrilling its 18 riders for four minutes each ride since 1936.

And, the pretty horses on the merry-go-around have received just as much attention as the history for many of them also dates very far back.

Canobie’s performance stage also has a rich history as stars were numerous in the “days prior to Fleet and Gillette,” Nicoli said, referring to two huge current-day entertainment venues.

“Sonny and Cher signed a contract to perform here and three months later they had that huge hit, I Got You, Babe.  But they signed a contract and they came.  You should have seen the traffic.  We still talk about that one,” Nicoli laughed.

Aerosmith and legends from the big band scene in the 1950s and 1960s have also performed on Canobie’s stage.

In line with its nostalgic business approach to entertaining families, the park has 30 games spread among three arcades and still offers Pinball, the oldest arcade game.  “It’s another guest favorite,” Pearse said.

Whether it’s Pinball or the Yankee Cannonball or whatever else, you can start making plans for your next trip to Canobie this holiday season.  Three shopping malls — Rockingham, Burlington, and Pheasant Lane — will be selling admission tickets this holiday season.  Admission cost $28 this year.  “It’s a great stocking stuffer,” Nicoli said.

And, he’s right about another thing.  There is no off-season for this park.  It’s clearly a year-round operation.

  1. Sits on 65 acres
  2. Opened in 1902 as a botanical-themed park
  3. 50 rides (Yankee Cannonball is said to be guests’ favorite)
  4. 30 games in three arcades including Pinball, the oldest arcade game
  5. Sonny and Cher, Aerosmith are among luminaries who performed on the park’s stage
  6. Owned, managed by three families and 10-member board of directors since 1958
17 Executive Drive, Suite One, Hudson, NH 03051 Phone: (603)880-1516 Fax: (603)879-9707
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