Haley Midgette played Gertrude McFuzz in Mowat’s production of “Seussical the Musical” in 2008.

By Kathy McGrath

A trio of music and drama teachers who taught at Mowat in the 1990s ushered in an era of high-level performances, leading to installment of the school’s current Performing Arts Program.

These teachers included drama teacher Shelly Meichenbaum, vocal instructor Peggy Silver and band leader Peter Tombler.

“Mowat’s shows during this era were high-calibre, and that’s because of the dedication shown by these three teachers,” said former Mowat student and new TDSB teacher Haley Midgette. “All three were incredibly passionate about music and drama and about helping their students grow and achieve a level of performance we could all be proud of.”

Haley, who grew up in Centennial, worked closely with the three teachers. She played flute in Mr. Tombler’s band for four years and appeared in several of the school’s productions directed by Ms. Meichenbaum, including “Anything Goes,” “Seussical the Musical” and “The Red Coat,” performed at the Sears Drama Festival.  She was also a member of the jazz choir directed by Ms. Silver, who acted as vocal director for the musicals.

Haley has fond memories of the frantic preparations leading up to a musical performance.  “Things were hectic with rehearsals at lunch, after school and on weekends. They (the teachers) would divide and conquer to keep us on task. Often you’d find Ms. Meichenbaum running choreography or blocking in the auditorium, while Ms. Silver went over vocals with another group of students. Mr. Tombler’s main task was getting the pit band ready – no easy feat – but I remember him jumping in to rehearse vocals when extra help was needed.”

Shows were often sold out for three-night runs. “My involvement in music and theatre were central to my high school experience,” Haley said.  “It was an important creative outlet for me and one that helped me gain confidence and come out of my shell.”

Haley believes that working towards a common goal naturally brings people together and she says music and theatre are no exception. “Because they require a high degree of vulnerability, they can be a catalyst for interpersonal relationships and individual growth. I’m incredibly grateful for the supportive environment that Mr. Tombler, Ms. Meichenbaum and Ms. Silver provided.”

Things have come full circle for Haley who did her teaching practicum with Mr. Tombler shortly before he retired.   She now does supply work at Mowat, teaching English, Drama and Music.

Ms. Silver has also retired from the TDSB and Ms. Meichenbaum is currently teaching at Wexford School for the Arts.