Gackstatter brings excellence to education

Posted on 26 September 2017 by Ian Schrauth

Meramec music teacher wins award from Missouri Humanities Council

 

By: Sean Thomas
Staff Writer

 

Gary Gackstatter, a teacher at STLCC Meramec, was presented with the award for Excellence in Education by the Missouri Humanities Council on Sept. 14, 2017. The Excellence in Education award honors a Missouri educator who has shown exceptional ability in engaging students and inspiring creativity and critical thinking. Gackstatter has been teaching since 1981 and is currently teaching classes at Meramec including Guitar 1 and Music Appreciation. He is also the conductor of both Meramec’s Symphonic Band and the Meramec Orchestra.

Gackstatter was nominated for the award by Deborah Taffa, a creative writing instructor at Washington University who had worked with Gackstatter on his “Symphony Chaco: A Journey of Spirit,” a performance which involved 13 different departments and placed 150 people on stage throughout the performance according to Gackstatter.

Gackstatter believes that the humanities, the arts, and philosophy unlock a person’s potential.

“All human beings are creative. Once they find their own creativity, they find their passion. It’s kind of a double-sided coin. Once you unlock that passion in somebody you can’t stop it,” Gackstatter said.

No matter your course of study, whether you consider yourself a musician, artist, or otherwise, according to Gackstatter, the arts and humanities is where students find their purpose.arcived

“Even if they’re not a music major. Even if they’re not an art major, when they get in touch with their creativity they have a direct pipeline to who they really are and then they can find their purpose in life,” Gackstatter said. “What the arts teach us is that everybody has a purpose, that’s why we are all different. As much as society would like us to be the same, we’re all different, and when you find that out there really is nothing that can stop you.”

When it comes to offering inspiration, according to Ian Buschmann, a student at Meramec and member of the Symphonic Band, Gackstatter seems to be at the top of his game.

“My first run in with Mr. Gackstatter was in high school, when I had first started playing the Saxophone,” Buschmann said. “He told me, ‘You need to work on your tone.’”

Where some students may have reacted to this defensively, Buschmann said he took it as a “big word of advice.”

“That’s what he’s about, telling musicians what they need to do but in a way that will make them want to do it,” Buschmann said. “He cares more than just wanting to get you out of the class.”

Gackstatter said he feels fortunate to be teaching at STLCC Meramec.

“St. Louis Community College lets the teachers be creative,” Gackstatter said. “I am surrounded by creative people in the humanities department, inspiring people in theatre, and art, and music and philosophy. They’ve really set the bar high here and I’m very fortunate to work here.”

According to Gackstatter, when it comes time for state and local governments to cut funding it seems that, often, education and especially education in the arts and humanities are some of the first departments to take a hit.

“They’ve done it for 50 years and when the schools get in trouble, it’s what they cut first,” Gackstatter said. “Plato said that in the arts are the keys to learning. He valued music education and arts education above physics, above mathematics.”

Gackstatter said that despite cuts to the humanities, the value of a musical education is apparent.

“Don’t quote me,” Gackstatter said. “Quote Plato.”

 

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