Coming out Swinging: Peter Hazzard Joins the Music Department


Hazzard plays a modulation on the “Birdland” chord progression after class. The song brings back many fond memories for him as he can remember when it came out and how it pushed the boundaries at the time. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him this year”, said Justin Surette ‘21.

Cayden Plummer, Staff Writer

The Hollis Brookline High School music department recently experienced its second change in personnel of the year due to unforeseen circumstances. Only weeks after Charles Roger’s departure  (and entirely unrelated to Covid-19), long-term substitute Benjamin Michon was called away to attend to a pressing matter out of state. To fill the void left by this egress, school administration worked with department chair Matthew Barbosa to bring veteran conductor, composer, and music instructor Peter Hazzard out of retirement and back into the classroom.

 Barbosa played an integral role in the process of hiring Hazzard last month. He describes the undertaking as, “Simultaneously unenviable and impressive,” as the most recent staff change came as a big surprise to the department. Barbosa, however, added, “This year has been an amazing opportunity for all of us creative types to showcase our creativity, flexibility, and artistry to problem solve some fluid and complex problems.”

The music education community has been widely affected by the pandemic. No stranger to this is choir director and music department chair, Matthew Barbosa. “The performing arts world has been completely flipped by the pandemic and the requisite and necessary response,” said Barbosa. This being said, the road ahead of Hazzard will not be a smooth ride. His experience will be not only helpful but necessary for his success as he takes on the huge task of teaching during these trying times. Fortunately however, he has a lot of it.

For the past few years, Hazzard has enjoyed several substitute teaching roles around New Hampshire, but his music career started long ago. As a boy, he learned to play the piano by ear, starting his formal instruction during third grade on violin. In middle school, he returned to the piano, and the rest is history. Hazzard would go on to attend both Boston University and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Berklee became a second home to Hazzard, who would stay on after graduation to teach classes in composition and piano. Throughout his lengthy career as an educator, Hazzard has found the time to feed his passion for composing, amassing over ninety original compositions and even more arrangements. Needless to say, his experience abounds. 

With Hazzard at the helm of the instrumental programs at HBHS there is hope that normality may soon return to the program. The student community, along with administration and faculty, believe there will be a positive shift in the department’s proceedings. Senior trumpet player and multiple time All State participant Justin Surrette anticipates that Hazzard’s arrival to Hollis Brookline High School will bring about several positive changes. “While it will be another difficult transition, Mr. Hazzard is very experienced with teaching and music which will make this a great learning opportunity that we wouldn’t have normally had access to,” says Surrette ‘21, “I’m hopeful that we will resume the work we have been doing and that we will make a final product to show for all of our work, whether that be a recording of some kind, or much more preferably, a concert for a live audience.” 

These aspirations are shared by department chair Matthew Barbosa who says, “we have discussed the possibility of some form of live performance before the end of the year. That goal remains nebulous and dependent on a number of variables, but it is a possibility,” meaning some normality could be introduced into an otherwise unprecedented year for the HBHS arts program.

In the short time that Hazzard has spent in the Hollis Brookline High School band room so far, he has already begun work on an arrangement of “Takin’ It to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers in hopes that its debut is a live performance by the Honors Jazz Band and Honors Choir. This proves to the students and community that Hazzard will not back down from any challenge and on the contrary, he is only just getting started.

Hazzard described his music taste as wide-ranging, not confined to one genre or writing style, “Music for me has to start somewhere and take you somewhere,” said Hazzard. He stresses the importance of keeping an open mind as artists, curators, viewers, and listeners alike saying, “It isn’t my job to understand what [composers] are doing all the time, and I don’t even have to like it. It is important, however, that we open ourselves to the ways in which they write.” This kind of creativity and fluidity is crucial in a year when nothing stays the same for more than a week at a time.

Hazzard will continue to teach until Charles Rogers returns from service in early June.