Sharing the passion for the musical arts on stage and in the classroom
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Northborough/Wayland – A music teacher for over three decades, Stephen Murray of Northborough has taught and directed a choir at Wayland Middle School since 2003. Teaching has also led him to work as a playwright, composer and lyricist for young audiences .
Throughout the 1990s he performed on stage and conducted music at several venues including the now closed Worcester Foothills Theater and the still thriving Worcester County Light Opera Company. With decades of teaching experience, his studies continued and he earned a doctorate in music education in 2017. Since then, he has returned to his roots: performing musicals in community theaters.
“It was great to be on stage again,” he said. “Of course, there was a lot of anxiety with the auditions and not being part of community theaters for almost two decades, but it was also very rewarding.”
A passion for musicals as a teenager in high school and community theaters prompted Murray to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music at Westfield State University in 1985. Soon after, he began teaching at Bartlett High Webster’s School to Proposition 2-1/2. music program fund in 1989.
He then worked for four years at the private Oxford Academy when it was located in the building which now houses Marion E. Zeh State Primary School in Northborough. There he wrote his first show: “Tortoise vs. Hare.” It was chosen from national submissions as the winner of the Anna Zornio Children’s Theater Playwriting Award presented by the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of New Hampshire. Murray now has 32 published shows, including musicals, plays and collaborations.
“I started writing shows at Oxford Academy because we didn’t have a budget to pay royalties to do existing shows, but we had kids who wanted to perform,” he explained. . “Recently, Zeh School did ‘Mother Goose, Inc.’, a show I wrote for this stage over 20 years ago.”
From 1994 to 1998 he worked at Burncoat Middle and High Schools in Worcester, then from 1998 to 2003 at Shrewsbury Public Schools. After earning a Masters in Fine Arts Education from Fitchburg State University in 2003, Murray began her current work at Wayland Middle School.
“I try to get students to think like a musician in their everyday life,” he noted. “Musicians don’t give up because of mistakes; musicians practice and improve. Mistakes are valuable because you can learn from them. The Wayland School District fits really well with my personal teaching philosophy and how music is accepted as an important part of the community. I landed in the right place.
While Murray landed his dream job, his studies in music education continued from 2008 at Boston University. His doctorate in musical arts was obtained in January 2017.
“Educators never stop learning on their own,” he said. “I had come to a crossroads in my career where I could have gone one way or the other. The direction I chose was to find more.
Also in 2017, Murray returned to the stages of community theaters. That spring, he played Franz Liebkind in “The Producers” at Concord Players. That fall, he played Billy Flynn in “Chicago” directed by Maryann Zschau at the Vokes Theater in Wayland. Zschau and Murray had performed together at the Worcester Foothills Theater in the 90s.
Murray is also currently working with StarFun Theater Camp in Framingham. There he wrote shows specifically for their young performers.
“Seeing my own work performed is the same feeling I have when I’m on stage,” he said. “It’s so fun to be back on stage.”
For more information on Stephen Murray and his shows, visit murrayshows.com.