PALMDALE — Westside Union School District assistant superintendent Shawn Cabey wowed the students and adults at The IDEA Academy @ Cottonwood with two short piano concerts Wednesday morning as Cabey prepares to retire from the district next month.
Cabey played the school’s baby grand piano in the middle of the auditorium with students seated around him. (The IDEA Academy’s program is based on Innovation, Design, Engineering and Art.)
It was his first public performance in about 17 years. About six months after he started working for the district, Cabey was out go-karting in the desert. He rolled the vehicle, which landed on his hand, breaking his finger. He has two plates and four screws in his finger.
“That was the end of any of my performing at all,” he said.
Cabey played two sets for the students. The first was for transitional kindergarten through third-grade students. He taught them about the piano’s full name, “pianoforte,” Italian for “soft-loud” and guided the youngsters through a soft and loud exercise using “Variations sérieuses” by German composer Felix Mendelssohn. He then guided the youngsters through a lesson on dynamics to emphasize the soft and loud aspects of music. Cabey also played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as the students sang along.
For the fourth- through sixth-grade students, Cabey taught them about fugues and motifs. He played a fugue he wrote when he was younger, as well as one by Ernest Bloch. He asked the students to identify how many times they heard a motif in the two fugues. He also played a concerto and a Bach sonata.
“I’m just trying to introduce the kids to classical music and do it in a fun way,” Cabey said before the assemblies.
Cabey started playing the piano at age 4. By the time he was 8, he toured with the New England Ensemble (he played violin); at 9, he played music around the world. Cabey also conducted an orchestra until a few years ago. Most of the music Cabey played when he was a young musician was orchestral. Cabey did not have an orchestra to accompany him this time, so he downloaded YouTube videos.
“It kind of feels like it’s an orchestra,” he said.
Cabey hoped his performance might inspire a love of classical music and a lifelong memory in a least one student. It also might encourage a student to learn how to play the piano.
IDEA Academy principal Tom Morreale invited Cabey to perform as a small farewell activity.
“Not only is he an incredibly talented person, but we were so honored to have him work for our school district for many years,” Morreale said when introducing Cabey. “Shawn is now going to be retiring and opening a new chapter in his life where he’s going to have many more adventures and wonders. But before he leave, we wanted him to come out here and share his love of music with you.”
Cabey has worked at the district for about 17 years. He came to education after a career in project management for construction. He is retiring to spend more time with his 3-year-old grandson, Zeke Cabey.
“I really want to spend more time with him,” Cabey said. “I’m still young enough that I can still do some of the professional things that I’m interested in.”
Cabey’s wife Elise, their son Noah-Gray Cabey and Zeke attended the performances. Westside Union School District Superintendent Regina Rossall and other district employees attended, as did Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency CEO Morris Fuselier and other employees. Cabey serves on the AVSTA Board of Directors as a representative of Westside Union School District.
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