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Fred Muzer taught Madison’s youth for 30 years, and he’s still giving back to the community; he’ll be honored at Vista Life Innovations’ Starlight Benefit on Saturday, April 27. (Photo by Margaret McNellis/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Fred Muzer of Madison will be honored at the Vista Life Innovations’ Starlight Benefit on Saturday, April 27, and it’s no wonder why: After a career of educating Madison youth, Fred is still giving back to the community.
Many in Madison can remember Fred’s 30-year tenure as an elementary educator with Madison Public Schools, including at the now-closed at Academy School.
“Academy was a special place,” Fred says, adding that teaching there provided him with a balance of freedom and responsibility to invite his students to explore and learn.
“I was always asking questions, never giving answers,” Fred says.
This Socratic style of teaching has been a pillar of pedagogy since the ancient Greek himself roamed Athens more than 2,000 years ago. The result is exactly the type of learning Fred prefers: teamwork.
“We’re all 10,” Fred says. “It was nice to work with people who were my own age.”
Fred’s inspiration to teach stemmed from more than that—he wanted to provide opportunities to learn, and found that he learned along with his students. An appreciation for this reciprocal experience germinated during Fred’s formative years.
As a member of a large family, Fred often found his young relatives gravitated toward him. He brought that connection to summer and church programs as well.
“It always felt good working with children,” Fred says.
As a high-schooler, Fred took a career aptitude test that pointed him toward one of three careers: social worker, minister, or teacher. But before he began to pursue teaching—an endeavor that coincidentally led him to student-teach in Madison where he grew up—Fred devoted five years to service in the Navy.
There, he followed another passion: music.
Fred grew up on a farm, where music was a large part of family life.
“We had big family parties,” he says. “Everybody sang; everybody danced.”
A fan of country western music, Fred’s father wanted him to play guitar, so at age 9, Fred began taking guitar lessons from an accordion player who ended up teaching him how to play jazz.
At age 13, he started playing folk music. Fred also plays the drums, and when he was in school, he always sang in the chorus.
“I was a drummer,” he says, “but playing guitar made more of a career.”
To Fred, music is all about entertaining and sharing.
“Music fits when you’re at your lowest—and at your highest point of celebration,” Fred says.
He credits music with getting him through middle and high school, providing a creative outlet and a way to work through the angst that often strikes hardest during one’s teenage years.
Music was always a part of his teaching, and Fred enjoyed writing songs with his students because it brought poetry and creative writing into the lesson.
After the Navy, Fred went on the road with some fellow musicians, and that’s when he met his wife, Mary. Fred’s music has led to his performing throughout the shoreline area, from New London to Middletown to New Haven and beyond.
When Fred and Mary came back to Connecticut, they lived in Chester while Fred pursued his teaching degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, but Fred’s return to Madison extended beyond his student teaching requirement when he was offered a job.
Even though Fred views teaching as a 24/7 commitment, he still found ways to give back to the community—and continues to do so in his retirement.
A member of the American Legion, Fred participates in the organization’s poppy sale fundraiser.
“Every dime goes to veteran causes,” Fred says.
The legion is also working to establish a satellite chapter in the Alzheimer’s Association. Currently, the South Central Regional Office in Hamden serves an area that stretches all the way to Old Saybrook.
Fred says the hope is to increase local fundraising so that, for example, Old Saybrook residents don’t have to travel to Hamden or New Haven to join fundraising walks.
Another American Legion effort Fred is working on is to make a plaque or two to honor the 600-plus service persons from Connecticut who perished in the Vietnam War.
This project was inspired by the Wall of Honor, which lists Connecticut soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan, that Fred saw when he visited Washington, D.C. for the American Legion’s 100th anniversary.
It’s through the American Legion that Fred became a member of the band Patriot Sound, which often performs on the Madison Green and on Beachcomber Night.
With the band, Fred and his family help load boxes for Operation American Soldier, which seeks to provide moral support to deployed servicemen and servicewomen. The band also raises money for Operation American Soldier.
Fred keeps his passion for educating children alive with the Madison Historical Society. Each year in May, Fred and fellow members don Colonial-era garb and meet with 4th-graders at the Deacon John Grave House.
Fred takes on the role of schoolmaster and presents lesson plans from the Colonial era in the basement of the First Congregational Church of Madison, which was used as a classroom back then.
It’s Fred’s work with the Masonic Lodge in Madison that brought him to Vista and led to his being honored at the upcoming gala.
“It’s about getting out in the community,” Fred says.
In addition to offering a scholarship to a graduating senior from Daniel Hand High School and supporting A Better Chance, Fred says the lodge’s efforts to help Vista began when “we were talking about helping organizations in the community.”
Fred stopped in at Vista in Madison, and before long, the Masonic Lodge members had built standing flats to hang artwork.
“I got to meet the people they work with and the people there,” Fred says. “I’m impressed with…the work they do.”
Though Fred is being honored at the gala, he says, “It’s not about me. It’s about the people—to celebrate the giving of themselves.”
Fred’s careers, both in teaching and music, and his volunteer efforts, all come full circle back to his community: Madison and the surrounding shoreline towns.
“I love Madison,” Fred says. “It made me who I am.”
Fred says the first week after he retired, he was driving through town and he thought, “This is just a beautiful place to be.”
Fred loves Madison’s “sense of community. I have found so many people doing so much, and asking nothing.”
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