After more than a quarter of a century in Darien schools, Rick Sadlon, supervisor of music for the Darien Public Schools, is stepping down.

His last day is June 30. There is no replacement yet for his position.

Sadlon, a jazz musician who plays saxophone, flute and clarinet, said he would like to devote more time to his career as a performing artist.

Accomplishments

For the past 26 years, Sadlon, 64, has worked in Darien Public Schools — first as Darien High School band director and then in his current role, which he held for 21 years.

Sadlon currently supervises the music for all Darien public schools — 20 teachers in total. This involves the “the band, orchestras, chorus, general music, and all the concerts and curriculum,” said Sadlon, a Newtown resident and father of two.

According to Sadlon, one of the biggest accomplishments of his career is hiring “excellent music teachers.”

“My most important facets of this job include hiring and helping and assisting music teachers to deliver a high level of instruction,” he said. “I’m so proud of what those teachers have accomplished and what we’ve done together.”

He said that he works with the teachers together as a team.

“Teachers are given those opportunities that encourage them to try new things and new ideas, and I was there to support them through it,” he said.

Music instruction after middle school are all electives, according to Sadlon.

“The challenge has always been to make sure our programs are meaningful, enjoyable, and enriching, so parents and well as students see the value and benefit of a music education,” he said. “We really worked hard to make sure those are great experiences for them, and that they leave our classroom being uplifted and with a sense of meaning every day.”

Enrollment in music education continues to increase, according to Sadlon. When Sadlon started as director of music, the orchestra program at Darien had 10 students. Currently, there are more than 90 students in the program.

“Our programs have had such a great reputation and deliver such good instruction and great experience that we continue to see an increase in enrollment over the years,” he said.

Some of the music programs and opportunities for students that were created during Sadlons tenure include the Darien Young Composers Concert, Music Department Curricular Focus Themes, DHS Small Ensemble Concert, DHS Wind Ensemble, DHS Chamber Orchestra, and DHS Pops Strings.

Most recently, Sadlon was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and will be working to promote performances and educational programs in Waterbury and throughout Northwest Connecticut.

Prior positions

Sadlon’s musical career has taken him as far away as Zurich, Switzerland, where he performed in “CATS” in Musical Theater Zurich.

“They offered me the position as a woodwind player in their orchestra,” he said, adding he stayed there for three years.

“It was a wonderful life experience, being in Zurich,” he said. “I was taking German lessons every week. It was a period of enlightenment.”

He recalled his time there fondly. “Mondays were our day off and my wife [Anne] and I would go to a different country every week. Paris for the weekend, down to Venice, Milan, and up into the mountains in Switzerland,” Sadlon said. “We’d take a train and we’d go to Germany and Austria.”

However, during those years, he said he really missed teaching and being involved in education.

“After awhile, doing the same show over and over it got a little old,” he said. “I missed the interaction with students.”

Performing artist

Sadlon has been an active musician his entire life. He plays saxophone, clarinet and flute. He performs in jazz clubs concerts and for corporate gigs for conventions and parties, mostly in Connecticut and New York.

He plays in 50 to 60 gigs and engagements a year, he said.

In his retirement, he said he wants to put “100 percent of time into performing.”

He plans to continue to actively perform with jazz groups such as New Duke, Gomez & Sadlon.

“Creativity,” “passion,” “vision”

Middlesex Middle School band teacher Gretchen Perrett has known Sadlon since 1983, when the pair performed in the Goodspeed Opera House Orchestra in East Haddam together. She is also retiring this year, after teaching music for 42 years.

“Rick is a wonderful, wonderful musician. He brought a real creativity to the job, a lot of innovations,” Perrett said. “I valued his expertise as a musician. He is so supportive and believes in stretching ourselves and capitalizing on our own strengths to do our best job. He will be missed.”

Tammy Sload, a parent of a student in the Darien Music for Youth Organization, said Sadlon has been a great inspiration for her children, “whether it was by creating the Young Composers Concert and offering it each spring with an area composer as a judge, or by playing alongside the kids as a member of the pit orchestra for musicals at DHS, or by supporting the teachers to make competitions and concerts and trips happen.”

Sload continued: “He is creative and enthusiastic and dedicated to helping students reach their individual and collective musical goals. He’s also never too busy to stop and talk to a student. He's a great guy, and we've been lucky to have him in Darien.”

Irene Trautman, another parent of a Darien music student, said when she started working with Darien Music for Youth about 20 years ago, “Rick was our go-to guy in the district.”

“His answer when it came to bringing great programming into the schools was always, ‘we can make it work,’” Trautman said. “The light always got brighter in the room when he started taking about master classes, military concerts, jazz bands, Young Composers; anything that would enhance the musical experience for the students.”

She added that over the years, Sadlon “never lost his passion” for the kids or the programs in the schools, “always trying to raise the musical bar for all, K-12.”

“He tirelessly continues to fight for superior music education in the district, even as his retirement is imminent,” Trautman said. “He knows every student by name and you could always find him at every musical extracurricular activity. He is a true leader, educator and someone I'm so happy to call my friend.”

Jonathon Grauer, director of bands at Darien High School, said Sadlon is a leader in the field and one of the most respected music educators in the State of Connecticut.

“With the ever changing landscape of music education, Rick has always been there to guide us through difficult times and new initiatives,” he said. “Rick is sought after around the state to provide professional development to towns that are not lucky enough to have a director of music.”

Grauer continued: “We see Rick as a valuable resource to our small town of Darien but his contributions to the state and national level will be sorely missed by many. Personally, Rick has been a friend and mentor to me. I have become a better teacher under his supervision and a better person because of his friendship.”

Jane Minnis, Darien High School orchestra director, said Sadlon’s “passion” for music is demonstrated “in so much of what he does — from creating innovative programs for students and teachers to performing music professionally.”

“In Darien, he has created a music department that stands at the forefront of music education, composed of dedicated teachers who share his enthusiasm for music,” said Minnis, adding she’s always inspired by “Sadlon’s vision and motivation, and [I] treasure all the wisdom he has imparted over the years.”

Sadlon said he thanks the Darien Community for entrusting him with the responsibility of developing and assuring a high quality program of music instruction for its young people.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the Darien community for the past 26 years,” he said. “I have confidence that our best days are still ahead and that our music program in Darien will continue to thrive, grow and build on what we have accomplished.”

sfox@darientimes.com