Music teacher Bruce Abbe leaving district after 33 years

His last day is this Friday, Jan. 18

Elementary teacher Bruce Abbe will retire from the Forest Lake school district on Jan. 18 after 33 years. Abbe taught music and was the technology integrationist at Forest View Elementary for most of that time, but spent the last two years at Scandia Elementary. (Photo by Mary Bailey)
Elementary teacher Bruce Abbe will retire from the Forest Lake school district on Jan. 18 after 33 years. Abbe taught music and was the technology integrationist at Forest View Elementary for most of that time, but spent the last two years at Scandia Elementary. (Photo by Mary Bailey)

Mary Bailey
Community Editor

After next week, if you want to see Mr. Abbe, you’ll have to go to the music store.

Bruce Abbe has been with the Forest Lake school district since 1979. He’s also an owner of The Music Connection, Forest Lake’s go-to place for sheet music, lessons, sound systems, recording gear, instrument rental and purchase. The store opened in 1981.

Most of Abbe’s 33 years in the district were spent at Forest View Elementary, where he taught general music to grades 1 to 6. He has also worked in Forest Lake and Linwood Elementaries, and taught the past two years at Scandia Elementary.

Fifteen years ago Abbe switched jobs to be the technology integrationist at Forest View, helping the other teachers use their computers and interactive whiteboards. At Scandia he teaches band and general music.

And after he’s gone from Scandia?

On Jan. 21, Abbe will start a new job as technology integrationist, a teacher support position, in the West St. Paul/Mendota Heights/Eagan school district.

Abbe is from Owatonna, where his parents were farmers. He attended Owatonna public school, which he said has an extremely strong music department. He sang in the choir led by Roger Tenney and played trombone in the band.

During high school and college Abbe was part of a Christian choir from Owatonna, Nomenclature, that sang all over the U.S. This is where he met his wife.

“I was never a good farm kid,” Abbe said. “But my dad was in the front row of every concert I ever did. Both my parents were very supportive.”

A St. Olaf grad, Abbe is certified to teach all music—choir, band and orchestra—in grades kindergarten through 12.

He also is certified in all three major music teaching techniques: Orff, Dalcroze (eurhythmics) and Kodaly. And he has a degree in gifted education.

His master’s degree in teaching elementary music is from a program that started at Hamline University and moved to the University of St. Thomas. After going through the program, Abbe then served on the board. He wrote his thesis on the best model for teaching young kids how to match pitch.

He also has taught a music with technology course.

Abbe enjoyed his years as a music teacher, helping kids experience the fun of music.

He also emphasizes that music is a science. “If you really understand how kids learn and can sequence it properly, you can greatly enhance their ability to make music,” he said.

His sequential way of presenting things begins with natural patterns that kids already know, he said, including speech and chant. “Parents don’t do enough nursery rhymes with kids any more.”

The teacher said he learned that, outside of school, some of his students used to have “Mr. Abbe parties,” where they would sit around and sing the old concert songs, including the school song that he wrote for Forest View Elementary.

When his daughter was young, Abbe moved his family to Stillwater for the orchestra program (before Forest Lake offered orchestra). Now she teaches violin at the private Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul. She is also a St. Olaf grad.

His son-in-law, also trained as a teacher, works at The Music Connection and directs a church choir.

And his grandson is very good at reciting nursery rhymes.

Well-funded schools like Mounds Park Academy, Abbe said, emphasize the arts.

He believes the Forest Lake school district is doing as good a job as it can with very limited resources.

“Over the years, the school budget has been stretched thinner and thinner,” he said. “We have to do more with less. Forest Lake is the best at offering the most for the least amount of money. I have never been more impressed with this district to offer bang for the buck.”

Abbe said he has always felt supported by the school district. “It’s not the highest-paying district, but they always tried to do what was best for me and the kids,” he said.

“Forest Lake has amazing teachers. The district is a victim of tax dollars. We’re not a Roseville, Wayzata, Hopkins, yet we’re expected to provide the same results, the same programs. We need equal funding to provide equal results.”

He called the gifted program “another fatality of the money issue.”

Abbe expresses his appreciation to all the students he had over the years. “If you can tell me who you are, I’ll remember something about you,” he said.

  • heidi sapa

    Fabulous article, Bruce! You are a classy guy. One thing is for certain, Bruce–you are an outstanding person, and you have left a positive mark on THOUSANDS of kids. We were lucky to have you, in every capacity that you worked. Please try to pace yourself in the next years, Bruce. We’re not getting any younger and life can pass us by if we continue to work so hard! I’m going to try, too–starting tomorrow.;) Love to you and sweet Jackie! Heidi Sapa

  • Kerry, Ron, Kate, Mark, Alissa & Paul Moberg

    Our best to you Bruce. I hope you read the tributes… there will be many. Alissa and Paige have a soft spot in their heart for you and whenever they are together you are a topic they never miss. The announcements…. it kept those two engaged and discovering. We have you on “tape” from the first concert when our Kate was some kind of a cat in the holiday concert… to the grand opening of Sharewood to all the other ways you touched the lives of our kids. Our best to you… I expected to read that you were retiring to Hawaii, I hope that will be the next chapter.

    The Mobergs