Fairfield resident, longtime teacher, to head Sacred Heart University’s new music education program

Frank Martignetti plays piano in his office on the West Campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. Jan. 11, 2022. Martignetti is director of SHU’s music education program.

Frank Martignetti plays piano in his office on the West Campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. Jan. 11, 2022. Martignetti is director of SHU’s music education program.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — The new music education program at Sacred Heart University aims to make a vibrant community of forward-thinking teachers, its director says.

Frank Martignetti was recently brought on as assistant professor and director of SHU’s new music education program, according to the university. The 42-credit graduate program will begin this summer, with the undergraduate program starting in the fall.

Martignetti said people at Sacred Heart have wanted to create a music major for years — both students and faculty. The university finally made it happen and is investing resources in it. He said he was given a broad brush to create a dream program and was later hired to direct it.

“I’m really proud of what we’re building here,” he said. “I hope it enrolls a vibrant cohort of really high-quality students — both master’s level and undergraduate. I hope that it has students teaching successfully throughout the Northeast and that it gets a reputation for being really forward thinking and progressive.”

He said he is now working on recruitment, facilities, equipment and staffing for it.

Martignetti, a Fairfield resident originally from New Rochelle, N.Y., said he spent 28 years teaching and performing music. He sang in church and school choral groups throughout his life, and began working professionally as a church organist and choir director, as well as music director for community theater productions.

As he went through his career, Martignetti continued in music education — teaching high school students in New Haven. He later directed the University of Bridgeport’s music education program for nine years, and eventually ran the entire department of music and performing arts.

SHU’s music education master’s program takes a year and a half to complete on its own, while the undergrate-to-masters music program will take five years.

“Our MAT program is for people who have a degree in the subject, and they have, often, significant professional experience in the discipline, and now they want to teach it,” he said.

Martignetti said the program is similar to the previous program he oversaw and revitalized at the University of Bridgeport.

“The cool thing about it is that the graduate students who are in the program, range in age from 22 — just out of undergrad — to 40 or 50 something,” he said. “It’s a cool mix of adult learners.”

Martignetti said he is not sure how many people will enroll in the graduate program this coming summer, adding “you’re at the point where you’ve started a new business and you’re waiting for the phone to ring.”

He said he wants the cohort to be small enough that he can give students individual attention, while also being large enough for them to be able to network and learn from each other.

“It’s not intended to be a huge program, but we don’t want to limit its growth potential either,” he said. “It’s just a solid cohort.”

Adult learners have unique strengths and weaknesses, Martignetti said, and so they need individual attention. The teaching certification is broad, covering pre-K through 12th grade and the topics of general music, choir, band, orchestra, technology and music theory — as well as the vast variety of instruments.

“No one can teach all those things well,” he said. “So, it’s a matter of helping students build on those strengths and finessing their weaknesses and learning new skills so they have a few areas in which they can be effective.”

Martignetti said there are several post-baccalaureate teacher prep programs in Connecticut, but the only master’s in music programs education are the ones are Sacred Heart University and University of Bridgeport. He said his former students are doing well in the job market.

“Everyone is working,” he said. “Most teaching positions are available in the summertime with a few around Christmas time. But, the job market seems quite good. Unfortunately, some people are retiring from teaching because they’re scared of getting COVID.”

Martignetti said there were 18 open music teacher positions in the state as of Tuesday — a number higher than normal.

Another aspect of this program will be the relationship the university and its students have with Bridgeport Public Schools, Martignetti said. He said he has done workshops with Bridgeport music teachers and other professional development during his time at BU, and assisted the district in other ways. He wants to build that relationship while running SHU’s program as well.

“We’re trying to create a unique opportunity where, just like the rest of the teacher programs here, they have the option to go into this Bridgeport teacher residency — where they work with a very good teacher in the Bridgeport schools,” he said.

The student would co-teach with that teacher for the full school year, Martignetti, and then Bridgeport would offer them a job if the graduate agreed to work there for at least three years.

“We want our students to teach in a variety of contexts to find the context that works for them,” he said. “We want them to know how to teach all students successfully and well. To create a great music program in a district where the resources are not as good... is a terrific outcome.”

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com