By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
DEDHAM/WEYMOUTH – Dedham High School’s music and drama teacher Steven Bergman of Weymouth brings lessons to his classes that he learned from working professionally in various capacities of the performing arts.
The educator is also an award-winning composer, musical director, keyboardist and playwright.
“The work that I do with professionals helps me raise the bar of my work with students,” he explained. “And the work that I do with students helps to keep me balanced when I’m working with adults.”
Math major gets musical gigs
Originally from Miami, Bergman played keyboards with bands in high school and college. His career path took a sharp turn after graduating from Florida International University in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
He got hired to work as musical director at Miami’s Actors Playhouse. With a professional theater credit, Bergman relocated to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music where he graduated in 1992.
“I wanted to be in a part of the country where music was much more appreciated than South Florida at that time,” he noted. “I traded weather for culture.”
Also in 1992, he played keyboards at Boston’s Charles Playhouse for “Together Again” starring showbiz legends Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca of NBC-TV’s 1950s “Your Show of Shows.”
“They’re comedic royalty,” Bergman said of the duo. “Imogene Coca was such a fragile, petite woman offstage. Then the moment she crossed the proscenium line, it was amazing to watch this transition of energy all of a sudden come to life.”
Bergman worked a few stints at Beverly’s North Shore Music Theatre including 1994’s “South Pacific” with 1968 Olympics’ artistic gymnast Cathy Rigby. He also began instructing youth programs at this and other venues.
Newlyweds on the road
Most of his 1990s musical directing gigs were at the now-closed Worcester Foothills Theatre. There, he met his now-wife, actress and director Maryann Zschau.
Soon after marrying in 1997, their honeymoon of sorts was a national tour of “Nunsense Jamboree” starring Georgia Engel (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”). Bergman played keyboards and Zschau understudied three roles. Meanwhile, Engel kept the traveling troupe entertained.
“Georgia liked doing whatever was popular wherever we were,” Bergman recounted. “We wound up putt-putt golfing in Indiana.”
Between the tour’s 1997 and 1998 runs, Bergman played keyboards at Nashville’s iconic Grand Ole Opry for the “Nunsense Jamboree” television special, DVD and CD featuring Emmy Award-winner Vicki Lawrence (“The Carol Burnett Show”).
Afterward, the tour continued – as did the newlyweds’ developments.
“During the tour, we found out we were going to be parents,” Bergman shared. “We had our baby shower in Dayton, Ohio.”
From theaters to classrooms
As a composer and co-lyricist, Bergman’s “Jack the Ripper: the Whitechapel Musical” and “Curse of the Bambino” were produced at several regional theaters, both accompanied with CDs. He also writes short and full-length plays.
Among Boston’s regional theaters where he has worked multiple stints as musical director are Lyric Stage Company, SpeakEasy Stage Company and Wheelock Family Theatre.
As an educator, he taught music and theater from 2001 to 2006 at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, a private college-preparatory school in Waltham.
“My second week of teaching was 9/11,” he noted. “I quickly saw that educators not only teach students, but are also there to support them when they’re feeling stressed from school or life.”
To complement his teaching license, Bergman earned a master’s degree in arts education from Fitchburg State University. From 2006 to 2018, he worked as choral and drama instructor at Littleton’s public middle and high schools.
Expressly for youth audiences, he wrote the music and lyrics, and co-wrote the book of “Reigning Cats & Dogs.” Winner of 2015’s Jackie White National Children’s Musical Theatre Award, the show explores acceptance, personal identity, friendship and loyalty. In addition to Bergman’s middle school in Littleton, the musical has been staged in Groton and Watertown.
Education in challenging times
Bergman began teaching at Dedham High School in the 2019-2020 academic year when remote learning started in March. He hopes his students learn life lessons as well as the performing arts.
“Be invested and passionate about whatever you do – whether it’s in the arts or not,” he said, relaying his advice to students. “Find a passion and activity that feeds your soul, especially in these challenging times.”
Learn more about Steven Bergman at everydayaholiday.net.