“My great-grandfather, Angus Gainey, started the first high school orchestra in South Carolina,” he said. “My grandmother, grandfather, my father and his brother all played in the orchestra at some time. My father played lead trumpet in the West Point Jazz Band. My brothers and sisters all played instruments or sang. They had bands that practiced at our house and played locally. I played in many garage bands growing up. I grew up hearing the records my older siblings and parents played so I heard a lot of different styles all the time.
“... I was in chorus and band in high school. It was there that I knew I wanted to be a full-time musician some day. Over the years I’ve had wonderful teachers and lots of super talented friends that have taught me much and have shared much. I’ve played in bluegrass, jazz, rock and country bands. I played in pit bands for countless musicals. I’ve worked as a church musician in many different roles. I’ve written and played lots of music. Basically, I love making music.”
Name: Rick McKee
Occupation/title: Music Specialist, Acworth Intermediate School, Cobb County School System
City of residence: Cartersville
Family: Wife, Angee Knight McKee; stepdaughter, Sarah Tonsmeire
Education: B Mus. Ed. Shorter College, M.M. in Composition, University of Georgia, Specialists in Music Education; University of Georgia, attended levels 1, 2,3 and master class in Orff Schulwerk.
How long have you been working at Acworth Elementary School and what led you to this line of work?
A: I’ve been at Acworth for eight years. I’ve been teaching elementary music for 28 years. I came from a musical family and I was very influenced by my high school band and chorus teachers. I wanted to be a high school chorus teacher but the first job I could land was in an elementary school and I fell in love with it.
What do you enjoy most about being a music teacher and helping children discover music?
A: I love interacting with children. They are extremely creative and very uninhibited most of the time. You never know what wonderful things can happen in the classroom. Music engages all parts of the brain. It is auditory, visual and kinesthetic. It is physical, emotional and intellectual. It teaches thinking!
Describe the piece you have composed for the Atlanta Pops Orchestra’s “Holiday Concert” at The Grand Theatre Dec. 14. How did this come about and are you looking forward to seeing your work performed by Cartersville Elementary and the Atlanta Pops?
A: This is an arrangement of the Spanish carol, “Fum, Fum, Fum!,” that I wrote for my chorus at Garden Lakes Elementary School in Rome. The original arrangement is for unison/two part chorus and piano. Jeannine Davis [asked] me to orchestrate this piece so the Cartersville Elementary School Orffestra could perform it with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra. I love the carol because its very rhythmic and it offers the opportunity to get young singers singing in a foreign language. I had to score kind of lightly to avoid overpowering the singers. I was very excited to have the opportunity to do that. The Cartersville group has performed many of my compositions and have always done a wonderful job.
What is your involvement with the Church of the Ascension’s Coffee House?
A: My wife, Angee, and I started the Ascension Coffee House seven years ago. She arranges all the publicity, food and general set up and I set up the P.A. and lights and act as musical host each month. That means I share the stage with a different musical guest each month. We focus mainly on original music so it gives singer/songwriters a chance to perform in a listening room with an attentive audience.
When was Cosmic Possum Music formed and what is its purpose?
A: I started Cosmic Possum Music in 2004 when I recorded and released my first solo CD, “New Religion.” The company was called Cosmic Possum Recording at that time. I later decided to start self-publishing my choral music and promoting live performances using the same vehicle, so Cosmic Possum Music was born. Angee has a very active role in that as well.
What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
A: You know, it’s taken 28 years but I’ve learned to be a pretty good teacher. Through my teaching and music I’ve tried to influence school climate in a positive way. Music can build school pride and create a sense of community.
If you were not in your line of work, what would you like to do?
A: If I weren’t a teacher I’d be involved musically somewhere.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Positive, creative, kind.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I was born in Izmir, Turkey. I’m an Army brat.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A: Two things: 1. Composers don’t write because they want to, they compose because they have to. 2. Be yourself and let everyone else be themselves.