Joshua Kant seems like just an ordinary music teacher, until you put a piano in front of him.
Music seems to radiate from not only his fingers but his entire body. He cannot contain himself and is bopping and swaying to the music.
This was my first impression of him as my children’s music teacher at Gardiner Manor School. When a teacher can respectfully grab the full attention of 100-plus 4th graders with the swipe of his hand, you realize you have a very special person.
Before becoming our choir teacher for the last 17 years, Mr. Kant started his career attending Hofstra University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music composition. He then attending the New York University Tisch School of the Arts for his master’s degree.
He won awards and was honored numerous times through the years, most notably Artist in Residence at the Eugene O’Neill Music Theater Conference and The Dramatist Guild Jonathan Larson Memorial Fellowships, which earned him an internship on the Broadway show Seussical during its entire rehearsal period leading up to opening night.
He has written books and lyrics for several musicals, including two for young performers: Anna Sharpe: 4th Grade Teacher and Anna Sharpe Vs. Cyberbully, both of which made their world premieres while being performed by our own Gardiner Manor students.
When speaking to him about these shows he said, “This has allowed me a wonderful mix of my creative self and my teacher self. It is very cool to have my young students become the first ever to perform some of my original songs.”
It doesn’t end there.
Over the years, Mr. Kant has co-directed six musical revues, while also creating original book (script) for these as well. They were all called some version of Springtime Follies and were directed with his wife and Bay Shore High School art teacher. He has also produced one other musical at Gardiner Manor with Ms. Bertolino directing: Dilys Owen’s Percival the Performing Pig.
While he is off duty from being a music teacher, he is working and collaborating on other creative endeavors. Most recently, he has co-written and composed the music for a musical called “The Temporary Professor,” with book and lyrics by Liv Cummins.
I was invited to see a professional reading with Broadway and professional actors at Cap 21 Studios in New York City. The story takes place at the fictitious college “Chadwick” where the temporary professor Philomena Page is thrown into the job of trying to save the college. Mr. Kant, in his usual exuberant style, was at the piano leading the storyline along with his score.
The presentation was eye opening. It was very interesting to see how much goes into developing a musical. Besides hoping for one day to be performed on Broadway, he and his collaborator, Liv Cummins, would love for the show to have a life — for as many people to see it as possible. They want to share the message of the show, which they believe is important.
It’s a message of life-long learning, and avoiding easy answers.
This drama mama and musical theater enthusiast feels it will only be a matter of time before we are sitting in a Broadway theater watching an original Kant musical performed on stage!