A Performing Arts Legacy at Dracut High – Lowell Sun

DRACUT – Dracut High School’s annual winter play played Dec. 10 and 11, with students performing “The Best Christmas Show Ever.”

Based on the 1971 children’s novel by Barbara Robinson, the play tells the story of the six notorious Herdman children. Known for their savage behavior, including smoking, the Herdmans volunteer to take part in the town’s Christmas pageant and end up teaching the whole town about Christmas.

Led by Dracut High teacher Kim Shepard, who has been involved in the performing arts department for the past seven years, the show ran seamlessly.

Dracut High senior Rachel McIntosh played the lead role, Grace, who was asked by the townspeople to step in and lead the contest. Once the Herdman children volunteer, Grace doesn’t know what will happen to the annual pageant and neither does the town.

While the town doubted that Grace could actually run the pageant with the Herdman children, the pageant becomes known as the best Christmas pageant in town. Herdman’s Misunderstood Kids win the hearts of town with their authentic performances and unique twists. Who needs gold, frankincense and myrrh? The Herdman children bring a practical gift, a ham, to the family in the nursery.

But one thing that many in attendance probably didn’t realize was that “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” wasn’t just featured on the high school stage, but on the Maurice Pepin stage.

With the renovation of Dracut High School in 2014, the school committee dedicated the stage in honor of Dracut High School’s longtime music teacher. This honor and recognition was well deserved for the man who dedicated his teaching career to the Dracut Public Schools Music Department.

Born in Lowell to Rodolphe and Edith Pepin on June 24, 1927, Maurice Pepin grew up in a home where music was part of daily life. His father was a church organist at Lowell and taught his son from an early age to play the organ and piano. The elder Pépin was also active in local theater productions, and Pépin’s mother also played the piano.

Surrounded by all this music, it is not surprising that Maurice Pépin enters the New England Conservatory of Music, where he obtains his baccalaureate. He then earned his master’s degree at Boston University.

While studying at Boston University, Pepin met Diana Supple. They married and took up residence on Colburn Avenue in Dracut.

In 1955, the Superintendent of Schools Paul Phaneuf hired Pépin and charged him with creating a music department—virtually non-existent at the time at Dracut.

Pépin was delighted with this new opportunity. As his wife, Diana, explained to me in a 2014 interview, Pépin firmly believed that all students in a public school should have the opportunity to experience the arts. He didn’t care whether the student was a novice or a serious musical student. What mattered most to him, she explained, was that the students had a desire to learn.

One of the first things Pepin did to build the music program was to offer discounted instrumental lessons, which resulted in the formation of a marching band for football games. The marching band needed uniforms, so Pepin’s next task on the agenda was a citywide effort to raise funds for the uniforms.

Over the years, Pepin founded the first band, served as band director, choir director, music department chair and audiovisual director, conducted 25 musicals, hosted two Elizabethan dinner parties, created the twirling corps and taught the first courses in television production. In 1985, he worked with businesses and community groups to build a gazebo for summer musical performances.

This year’s students who performed in “The Best Christmas Show Ever”, among actors, actresses, musicians and stage crew, continued the tradition of high quality artistic performances established by Maurice Pépin.