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Dracut’s Music Man Scores High Note Earning 2019 Varnum Award

Mar 01, 2019 03:02PM ● By Lisa Redmond

The late Maurice R. Pepin (Courtesy photo)

DRACUT – The late Maurice R. Pepin, Dracut’s own “Music Man,’’ took his final bow in spirit on Tuesday as he was posthumously named the 2019 Varnum Award recipient for exemplary public service.

Although Pepin, 90, formerly of Dracut, died on Sept. 23, 2017 in Florida, his family appeared before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday to accept the statue on behalf of their late father.

The Varnum Award is given to either a living or deceased member of the Dracut Community who exemplifies the civic and patriotic spirit of Joseph Bradley Varnum.

Pepin, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, taught for 36 years in the Dracut schools. Pepin was selected from a group of four outstanding nominees, Cathy Richardson told the selectmen.

During the ceremony, Richardson read aloud a biography of Pepin penned by his daughter Julie Pepin Kirsch. In the biography, the daughter wrote that her father was the creator of a diverse music program in grades K-12.

He was Dracut’s version of the Music Man, directing countless musicals on the same stage that would later bear his name. Pepin started a marching band, initiated the formation of a high school jazz band and twirling corps, put on Elizabethan suppers and established an elite acapella chorus that performed throughout the Merrimack Valley.

Pepin taught music history which integrated teachers from different subjects. He is credited with starting the tradition of using bagpipes to enhance the high school graduation ceremonies. In 1985, he worked with businesses and community groups to build a gazebo constructed for summer musical performances. The gazebo is still on the lawn in front of the Englesby Elementary School and used by the community during Old Home Day each September.

“He was a teacher who raised the bar and took things to a higher level,’’ the daughter wrote about her father.

A defining moment for Pepin came on opening night of the 1974 spring musical. Pepin was called away for an emergency at the hospital. His father was dying. Pepin went backstage to give the students a pep talk and emphasized the show must go on.

He made it to the hospital in time to say his good-byes, then he did what his father would have expected, Pepin returned to finish the show.

As a youngster, Pepin grew up in a home where music was part of everyday life. His father was a church organist in Lowell and taught his son from an early age how to play the piano. With music in his blood, Pepin earned a Bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. He went on to earn his Master’s from Boston University where he met his wife, Diana Supple. They married and moved to their Colburn Avenue home in Dracut.

Even in retirement in Florida, Pepin and his wife enjoyed a life full music. Diana Pepin died a year after her husband. The couple had been married for 65 years and raised six children.

“Music was his entire life and Dracut is a better place as a result of him paving the way,’’ his daughter wrote.

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