LaCasce’s departure from FA seen as sudden end of a sterling career
By Gail Geraghty
FRYEBURG — Speculation abounds, but few details are being given by Fryeburg Academy over the sudden departure of Brent LaCasce, one of its most accomplished and celebrated faculty members.
When LaCasce’s employment at the independent secondary school in Fryeburg ended abruptly on Oct. 1, he was at the height of a 22-year music teaching career at the academy, having led his Vocal Jazz Ensemble students to their eighth straight state title just six months before. Under his leadership, FA has captured over 30 various state, regional and national titles in big band, combo and vocal jazz since 1997, including three first-place wins for the Vocal Jazz Ensemble at the prestigious Berklee Jazz Festival in Boston.
Head of School Erin Mayo confirmed Tuesday that LaCasce no longer had a contract as a FA faculty member, but whether that contract was terminated or ended by LaCasce, she would not say.
“I can tell you he is no longer an employee here,” Mayo said, as of Oct. 1. Pressed for a reason, she repeated the statement, and said she could not comment further on “an employment situation.” LaCasce could not be reached for comment through a telephone call Tuesday to his Fryeburg home.
The news reportedly came as a shock to the tight-knit and highly-regarded school’s 637 day and boarding students, where LaCasce had served as director of music and chair of the arts department and was inducted into FA’s Hall of Excellence in 2011. More than a few of his former students, including Heather Masse and Jonathan Sarty, have gone on to successful careers in virtually every genre of music, literally all over the world.
“His accomplishments have been off the charts,” said Allen Kaschub, director of the University of Southern Maine’s School of Music where LaCasce also has served as artist faculty of jazz voice for around two years. Kaschub said LaCasce is still employed at USM. He said he was aware of LaCasce’s departure from FA, but said he has heard nothing officially.
“We don’t respond to rumor,” Kaschub said. “I can tell you this: when a female faculty member is asked to leave the school, no one gives it a second guess; when a male faculty member is asked to leave the school, everyone jumps on it, and assumes the worst.”
Mayo said the academy has posted an opening for a choral music director, and has put up an internal posting to seek a new fine arts chair. Mike Sakash, who teaches instrumental music, has been named the new Music Director, she said.
LaCasce’s name has been removed from the academy’s website as a faculty member, and as of Tuesday, his Facebook page had been taken down. LaCasce served as advisor for seven separate extra-curricular music groups at the academy — the All School Musical, Co-curricular Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combos, Rock Band, Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Choir.
This summer was LaCasce’s 27th year at Camp Encore-Coda in Sweden, where he taught advanced instrumental and vocal jazz ensembles and chaired the jazz/rock department.
When he was honored as one of 13 alumni in 2011 named to FA’s Hall of Excellence, LaCasce, who graduated in 1978, was described as being “the face of Fryeburg Academy for the last 20 years.” A standout in track and field, LaCasce also played football and baseball; but it was his talents as a singer, trumpet player and pianist that led to multiple years of All-State Chorus and Band honors as well as All-Eastern honors.
After graduation, he attended Bowdoin College and the U.S. Army School of Music, where he was a vocal, trumpet and piano soloist with the U.S. Army Field Band and the eighth ID Band in Germany. He received a BA in Music from the University of New Hampshire and a Masters at USM.
“He has brought the school untold respect and recognition with his music program,” stated the Hall of Excellence announcement, which also included his father Elroy O. LaCasce as one of the inductees, having served as FA’s Headmaster from 1922 to 1955.