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Middle School Teacher Makes Beautiful Music

Matt McKagan, September's Teacher of the Month, has been teaching music at Lindero Canyon Middle School for 22 years.

Teacher of the Month profiles outstanding instructors from the myriad of schools in Agoura Hills based on recommendations from principals, parents and the community. Send yours to susan.pascal@patch.com.

is known for it its rich music program led by Matt McKagan. McKagan has spent his entire 22-year career teaching at Lindero and anyone who’s ever had the privilege of watching him lead his students in a performance observe one thing: Matt McKagan loves to teach.

McKagan is responsible for approximately 400 music students, ranging in ability from beginner to the more advanced third year musician. He teaches Beginning Band, Cougar Band (intermediate), Concert Band (advanced) and Jazz Band A during school hours; Jazz Band B before school hours and a brass ensemble and percussion ensemble after school. He also teaches a music workshop over the summer.

Originally from Seattle, WA, McKagan came to California to study at Cal State Northridge, one of the top music schools in the country at that time.

The Agoura resident just celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Rachel, who works as ’s library clerk. The McKagan’s have two children. Their son, Andrew, is a junior at and plays saxophone and their daughter, Sarah, a trombone player like her father, is an eighth grader at Lindero.

“It was natural for both of my kids to take up music, and it’s really been such an honor and such a joy to be their music teacher,” said McKagan.

During his free time, McKagan likes to road and mountain bike in the local hills.

“About two weeks ago I experienced every biker’s worst fear,” he said. “I blew a tire while going downhill really fast and broke my collarbone. It still hurts a bit, but I’m recovering. I’m hoping to get back on my bike again soon.”

“Matt McKagan has a knack of bringing out the best in his students,” said Lori Fitzpatrick, parent of former students, Keegan and Everett. “He not only imparts his love of music to the kids, he allows the students to experiment and improvise and see what their instruments can do. Individuals aren’t lost in the ensemble. He finds a way to make each part and each student matter.  He provides the tools that these kids need to grow into productive and thoughtful adults.  Matt played a huge roll in Keegan and Everett’s love of music, a passion they continue to pursue today.”

Patch:  When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

McKagan: I knew that I wanted to have a job that I would look forward to every day. I had such a great experience in high school and wanted that experience to continue. I had been playing trombone since fourth grade and have a great love of music. Teaching music just seemed like a natural choice.

Patch:  You have won countless awards as a music teacher. Which award are you most proud of.

McKagan: I feel very lucky to have such great achievements. Of course, I’m proud of all of them, but I suppose I feel proudest of three of them.

I won the 1999 Bravo Award, which honors innovation and creativity in arts education for an individual teacher. Over fifty teachers were nominated and ten judges watch you at different times and rate you, so it was pretty cool to win that.

In 2000, I won the Amgen Award for teacher excellence. That was great, because it was strictly a teaching award, and I was nominated and voted for by parents and it feels so nice to have such wonderful community support.

And nationally, I won the 2007 Mr. Holland’s Opus Award and was flown to New York for a ceremony held at Carnegie Hall. That was a huge honor and an incredibly humbling experience.

Agoura Hills Patch:  What is your favorite part about your job?

Matt McKagan:  I know it sounds corny, but at the end of a rehearsal or a performance when everyone is smiling and it’s obvious that everyone is having fun, that is my favorite part of my job. Don’t get me wrong, learning to play an instrument is serious work, but it’s also a lot of fun, and when I see those kids really enjoying themselves, well, that’s definitely the best part of the job for me. I really do have a job that I look forward to every day.

Rabbi Gershon Weissman September 11, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Congratulations Matt on all your extraordinary accomplishments. You are a beautiful example for all our young people and you bring so much goodness and music to our community! Thank you, Rabbi Gershon Weissman
Wayne September 12, 2011 at 01:02 AM
As a parent of one of Mr McKagan's students I cant attest to his excellence.. We are truly blessed to have him in our community.
Dan Stark February 06, 2012 at 04:22 AM
We have a grandson in the Cougar Band and go to all the concerts. As a retired teacher myself, I could not hold a candle to his excellence! Dan Stark, Malibu

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