By Camie Strojny, Sports Editor
After serving 26 years at Nantucket High School, Erik Wendelken will be retiring from his position as a music teacher. Beginning to work at the Nantucket Public Schools in 1995, he has managed to transform the music department over the last two and a half decades here. Wendelken has had the ability to share his talents, holding a bachelor’s degree in music performance, a master’s in education, and a master of fine arts in music composition. He has several pieces published and is Juilliard trained.
Instructing musical classes at the high school, two include Guitar and Rock and Roll History, he is abundantly generous with his time and humble with his talents by playing across a variety of events on the island. He plays anywhere that he is asked to in his different musical groups over the years, such as: Nantucket Bluegrass Band, Eel Grass, Cranberry Jam, Polland Stings, Bob Lehman Trio, Earth Got the Blues, Timbuck Blues, Chuck Colley Trio Band, and ShepCats. Wendelken plays at St. Mary’s Catholic Church as well, and even music festivals in different parts of the country, and even Ireland a few years ago. Needless to say, he is an extremely busy, hard-working musician.
Wendelken has raised three daughters who all graduated from the high school, his oldest being an art teacher at Cyrus Peirce Middle School. Outside of school, he also enjoys playing and composing music, fishing, and spending time with his family. Wendelken is originally from New Jersey and moved to Nantucket in 1995 with his wife. His current musical practice is focused on musical composition, writing many pieces for the middle school band.
Hundreds of kids have had the opportunity to have Wendelken as their music teacher. With twenty-six years of teaching experience on the island, his sheer patience to sit next to a student as they pick up a guitar for the first time, or learning to read music, is absolutely unmatched. Senior Jehren Buckley views Wendelken as a strong mentor, conveying, “he has pretty much taught me everything I know about music. Mr. Wendelken introduced me to new genres and new artists over the 7 years I have been in his class. Mr. Wendelken is an awesome teacher and he will be missed at NHS.”
The Nantucket Public School staff can’t say enough good things about Wendelken. Music teacher Erin MacIver expresses, “Erik is one of kindest, hardest working people I know. He is patient, funny, extremely talented, and humble. He goes above and beyond for his students, his friends and family, and for anyone in need. I have worked with him for the past 18 years, and I couldn’t ask for a better colleague.” Branching off that, Executive Assistant for the Superintendent, Logan O’Connor, states that “he is a very pleasurable person, student-supportive and clearly fosters a love for the arts.”
It is clear that Wendelken is incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate. He strives to develop young musician’s interest in the music world. His engagement as a role model for many students continues, as he led the Community Jazz Band at the Nantucket Community Music Center for many years, while simultaneously teaching at the middle and high school levels.
Wendelken has joked with the Class of 2021 that he will be “graduating” with them since they were freshmen, yet it still feels as though time has moved much too fast. Nantucket High School is losing an asset to their team, but Wendelken has left a remarkable impact on his students and peers. He is a clear example that dedication and passion can lead anyone to their dreams with hard work and composure. Mr. Wendelken, thank you for all you have done, nothing but gratitude for your strong morale. You have truly inspired many here on Nantucket and will continue to do so, rock on!