Going Home, Soo returns to Acton-Boxborough


Amelia Jarrett

Soo in the electronic music room

Amelia Jarrett, Staff Writer

In the summer of 2018, the Westford Academy Band welcomed Michael Soo as its new band director, but now, three years after accepting his position, Soo has decided that it is time to say goodbye.

Soo will be leaving to accept a new position in the Acton-Boxborough School District. He attended school there before college and sees this as a sort of homecoming. In 2018, just as Soo began his job at WA, the previous band director, George Arsenault had also accepted a job within the Acton-Boxborough school district.

As band director, Soo has been responsible for many different types of classes, ensembles, and extracurriculars, such as concert band, symphonic band, percussion ensemble, electronic music, marching band, and jazz band.

“Finding enough hours in the day to give everyone their deserved time, while also getting enough sleep can be a challenge,” Soo said. “It’s something I do enjoy, but [running the band] is definitely trying when you have to find that balance and make sure that everyone gets the best treatment they can possibly get. […] It takes a long time to find that balance and figure out how you can make it work for you, while also keeping stress down for all the people involved.”

Though his new position is different in a lot of ways, there will still be a lot to manage. Working between elementary, middle, and high school levels, Soo will both be a conductor and a brass and percussion instructor.

“As a brass player and a percussionist, this is kind of a job that seems like it was designed for me,” Soo said. “It is something that plays to my strengths as a musician, and as a teacher. [This] opportunity really is exciting.”

Coming into his position at WA, Soo had not had any prior experience in the professional world, as he had come into his position fresh out of college. Teaching at WA became an opportunity to learn the ropes of directing a band and work in a hands-on manner.

This did not come without its challenges. Soo had to re-learn the workings of a band, this time from a director’s perspective rather than a student’s, in a way that he had not yet experienced, dealing with real situations rather than hypotheticals. He had to create and understand his vision for the band, and then put that into practice, without knowing precisely how to do so.

“[…] That’s a lot of responsibility for a 24 year old,” Soo said. “It was definitely a scary thing to come in to. I wanted to do right by all the people who were taking a chance on me, our administration and my colleagues. Mr. Arsenault [the previous band director]  had built something so special here, and I knew the size of the shoes that I needed to fill.”

To Soo, the band community has achieved more success than it has faced challenge.

“It’s the little moments,” Soo said. “It’s a combination of many small things that makes this job rewarding, […] I think about our culminating experiences, our concerts, just the fear and excitement before those concerts, and the sense of relief afterwards, people are just so happy that they made it through. They got to share that experience and that’s really cool, there’s nothing quite like it. […] Little things like that, the positives, the negatives, it’s all good stuff in the end, because it’s part of the growth process.”

This idea of a growth process is something that Soo plans to carry through to his new position as he re-learns the ropes of a new band and a new setting. Though he is departing, Soo wishes all the best for the WA band.

“I hope the people in this district continue to see the value in what the music department has to offer, and what the band program has to offer. I’m sure they’re going to find someone great to come in and do the job well,” Soo said. “A band is only as strong as its community. You can’t have an ensemble that trusts each other enough to take musical risks, if you don’t have a strong community, so come in with an open mind.”