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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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JR’s own Grammy nominee: Mr. Petillo’s musical past

Desmond Parsons
OUR OWN GRAMMY NOMINEE – Academy acclaimed Mr. Petillo joins the JR social studies department.

When History teacher Matthew Burgoyne left for paternity leave on March 13, famed and Grammy-nominated student teacher Michael Petillo took over his classes. Petillo has come to Jackson-Reed after spending years working in the music industry to begin a new chapter of his life.

As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia, Petillo was drawn to DC’s music scene. Because of this, and his then interest in pursuing a career related to politics, he chose to attend George Washington University where he studied history. 

Petillo emphasizes that music “is one of the things he has been obsessed with his whole life.” He has worked on 26 albums, his first being published when he was a teenager. His most recent project, Playing for the Man at the Door: Field Recordings from the Collection of Mack McCormick, 1958-1971, remastered a collection of blues songs and received a nomination for best historical album at this years’ Grammys. 

However, he has released many more entirely original pieces of music. He highlights his various influences, pointing out that “some of them are rock music, some of them are electronic, and some of them are in between.” As he goes on to say, much of his music combines many genres and artists, making his discography incredibly varied. Listening to his music, the many creative forces can all be heard compiled together.

His connection to music helped bring him to Jackson-Reed. His first experience with the school was the summer before his first semester in college, when he went to see a Fugazi concert at Fort Reno. Many years later, working at a recording studio, he received a call from Assistant Principal Marc Minsker asking to set up an internship for a student. He was not able to provide the internship, but he mentioned that he was completing his master’s degree to become a teacher and asked Minsker if he could observe a class at Jackson-Reed for his program. Minsker obliged, and Petillo gained a valuable connection to the school.

However, this connection was not ultimately what got him the job. At the beginning of this year, Burgoyne, recognizing that he would have to leave midway through the year due to paternity leave, contacted his former college, American University (AU), to see if any student teachers were available to work in his place. Petillo, attending grad school at AU, was picked for this role, and has worked with Burgoyne throughout the year to build up the skills necessary to become a full time teacher. 

Petillo emphasizes that he hopes to bring a new perspective to the classroom as he takes over. He has some new primary sources he hopes to add to lessons, including historical music he has learned about through the music industry.

He is excited to teach, even if it will render him unable to work on his music production for now. He grazes over his projects for years at a time, and although he has no immediate plans to work on new music, he cannot say what he will do in the future.

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Cole Zich, Section Copy Editor
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