Michael McNamara, Orchestra Director
Michael McNamara, known to his students as "Mr. Mac" or even just "Mac" began his career as a musician at the age of 15 years old. He taught himself to play the guitar from books and learning songs by ear throughout high school, then double majored in Accountancy and Jazz Guitar Performance Providence College, graduating in 2000. Returning to school in 2002, Mr. Mac took the necessary credits to become a certified teacher and received another bachelor's degree in Music Education from Providence College in 2004. He taught full time guitar lessons for 5 years from 2000-2005 during this time and also taught general music at a K-8 private school in Barrington, RI. Mr. Mac was first very active as a performer in his home state, playing in a variety of rock and blues bands and maintaining a guitar studio of 55 students.
In 2006, Mr. Mac began working at East Ridge and Scotts Ridge Middle Schools as the middle school orchestra director. There he founded the district wide Symphonic Orchestra, which began winning awards since its inception in 2009. In 2008, Mr. Mac joined the board of directors for the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, serving as interim president and then president from 2009-2011. He resigned from the board just prior to the birth of his daughter. In 2013, Mr. Mac earned his Masters Degree in Music Education from Western Connecticut State University.
After 6 years at the middle schools, in fall of 2012 Mr. Mac moved to Ridgefield High School where he directed the Symphonic Orchestra, Concert Band and its sister class Percussion and Jazz Band ensembles. Currently, Mr. Mac only teaches orchestra courses. At the time he came to RHS, the orchestra had not been a full symphonic orchestra with winds in over 20 years. Their inaugural concert under Mr. Mac's direction included a performance of the entire Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven. Since then, the orchestra has performed all original, un-arranged material such as Danse Macabre and Bacchanale by Saint-Saens, the finale movements of both Dvorak's 8th and 9th Symphonies, Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Egmont Overture as well as two movements from the 7th Symphony, the finale movement to Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, March Slav, and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, Respighi's Pines of Rome, and the 4th and 5th movements of Mahler's 5th Symphony. In April 2014, the orchestra was selected to participate at the All State Festival as an Honors Ensemble...one of the highest honors a school group can achieve.
Mr. Mac has also helped to grow both the orchestra and band program significantly with the help of middle school Band Directors Hilary Brown and Andrew Clavi, and orchestra director Shane Peters. Both groups doubled in size, and in the fall of 2018, RHS welcomed Mr. Rob Volo to the music department to take over the band program due to the increase in enrollment.
As a performer, Mr. Mac founded Relative Souls in 2009, an original Bridgeport based funk-rock fusion band that plays all over New England on the club and festival circuit. Through his performance network, he has been able to bring in several musicians and conductors for master classes for the instrumental students at RHS.
Mr. Mac lives in Ridgefield, CT with his wife Jessica, who is the founder of Ridgefield Suzuki School and conductor of Philharmonia Strings at Norwalk Youth Symphony. They have two kids, Julie (age 7, violin) and James (age 4, cello).