October 11, 2010
Retired educator turns to music
Former Dryden principal performs with his daughter, manages her band
Ted Walsh had a plan when he retired last month after 30 years as a teacher and administrator for Dryden Central School.
Goodbye board of education and faculty meetings, hello music.
The Cortland native finished up in early September as Dryden’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment, a job he held after 4 1/2 years as middle school principal, a half-year as assistant principal and 24 1/2 years as a high school English teacher.
Now his thoughts revolve around his daughter Maddy’s budding career as a singer.
“At my last school board meeting,” Walsh said, “they showed a montage of images. There I was in old clothing and hair styles, with my hair long. Now it’s on to other things.”
Walsh plays his guitar and occasionally piano in Tuesday jams at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse. He was there last week, joining another guitarist, a drummer and a bongo drummer to play for an audience of four people. He sang lead on an old Rolling Stones tune.
Walsh is planning another performance by the Walsh Family and Friends on Oct. 16 at the Blue Frog. He also still plays with a group called Eddie’s Basement, as he has for 17 years.
Walsh and his daughter, joined by her boyfriend Mike Suave, perform as Madd Daddy. Maddy Walsh, 27, also performs and records with Suave and three other musicians in their group, the Blind Spots, which just recorded an album in May titled “El Camino Green.”
“Maddy has a big, powerful, pretty voice,” Walsh said. “Her band is really good, trying to find their way in a very difficult industry.”
Walsh has been spending his time scouting venues for his daughter’s band, most recently in Binghamton and Rochester.
“I’m acting as her manager, for now,” he said.
“Dad helps with the business side — public relations, posters,” said his daughter. “He’s taken a lot of that off of us. He’s going to be a big help to me as I try to make it in the music business.”
Maddy Walsh says she cannot recall a time when she was not singing with her father. Playing instruments came much later, as she played the piano as a child but balked at learning guitar.
“I was real stubborn about guitar, it was probably harder than I wanted it to be,” she said. “I was in grad school before learned mandola first, then guitar.”
Ted Walsh, 55, and his wife, Maggie, live in the house on Pleasant Street where he grew up as the sixth of seven children. They moved to the city a few years ago to help his aged mother, Olive, after raising Maddy and son Gavin, now 25, in a house in a forest outside McLean and then a house in Dryden.
He said he did nothing with music as he grew up, not even at Cortland High School, where he graduated in 1973. Walsh enrolled at SUNY Oswego and left after one semester, then worked for four and a half years as a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard in the Ithaca bureau.
He took a course in piano and composition at Tompkins Cortland Community College and began to sing, first solo and then with friend Dave Poland. They called themselves Polecat.
“It grew into an acoustic swing band,” he said.
He enrolled at SUNY Cortland and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in adolescent English education.
After he received his certificate in administration from SUNY Cortland and became a principal, he rose through Dryden’s ranks but says he missed teaching.
Superintendent of Schools Sandy Sherwood said Walsh brought a thoughtful, reflective leadership style to the district when he left the classroom.
“He would take his time to gather information before making a decision,” she said. “He was very focused, and he took on some big jobs — assessment, student data, curricular alignment, all part of the district strategic plan. He was meticulous in keeping us moving forward.”
Sherwood said Walsh’s job was not budgeted this year, as the district saved money, and his roles were divided among different administrators, including her.
“Not only do we miss the work Ted was doing, we miss Ted,” she said. “He was quick with a smile, just a delight to work with.”
Maddy Walsh emerged as a voice talent at Dryden High School, playing lead roles in the school musicals. Even as she majored in English at Binghamton University, then studied for a master’s degree in English and creative writing at Cal State Sacramento, she worked on her music career.
Maddy recorded a folk album in Sacramento with local musicians. She works as a freelance editor for book presses in Ithaca.
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