After teaching for 31 years at San Gabriel High School (SGHS), Tammy Cognetta ended her career, leading the band’s performance for the last time at the graduation ceremony on May 31. She decided to retire, or as she prefers to say, “graduate,” from her position as band teacher and swim team coach.
After careful consideration, Cognetta decided that this year would be the right time to culminate her career. She wants to give the band enough time to get accustomed to a new teacher in time for their upcoming projects.
“I have been looking at it—I have been doing this for a long time,” Cognetta said. “There are very exciting events coming up for our band kids; the Rose Parade will be on Jan. 1, 2020. This was the best time to go because I know that they’ll bring in somebody strong and good [who] knows how to run a good program. This would be the best time to do that.”
Cognetta has a number of activities planned for her time off. Visiting Maine, Machu Picchu, and the Panama Canal are all places she has in mind; but aside from travelling, she also wants to continue music through the community orchestra and even go back to attending school. Though it feels like she has a lot planned, it still feels surreal to her.
“It’s a lot and not a lot; I think things just kind of have to sort themselves out,” Cognetta said. “The dogs and the cats will be happy to see me all the time, more treats and more walks. But it is definitely a transition, so it will take some getting used to, I’m sure, because I have been busy for so many years. It is kind of interesting to see how not being quite so busy is going to turn out.”
When she started college, Cognetta had her mind set on playing for a symphony orchestra. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to change her focus. She began pursuing a career in music education and after graduating, she began teaching at a number of different elementary and intermediate schools for different districts. Soon thereafter, an opportunity arose to go to Switzerland. After her return a year later, Cognetta decided that she wanted to begin teaching music to high school students. She found a job at SGHS and never left.
“This job was available and I just kept on staying,” Cognetta said. “It never occured to me to stay five years and go somewhere else; it just worked out. It’s been grand; it’s been a wonderful adventure for me. Occasionally it felt like work, I’d say ‘gosh, I’m kind of tired’ but for the most part it has just been fun.”
This past year’s band president, senior Jenny Luu, is one of many students who have become very fond of Cognetta over their years spent with her.
“I’ll miss how we would chat about random stuff in her room with other band members, especially those she’s close to about everything and anything we can come up with,” Luu said. “She gave a third-party view on everything and tried to resolve issues within the band.”
Senior drum major Christian Le said he was thankful for Cognetta’s time at SGHS, but also noted how he found himself “torn” over her retirement.
“It’s hard to imagine San Gabriel without her and I do wish she would stay,” Le said. “But I’m also glad that she is taking this big step into the world where she can live her life.”
In addition to the students, choir teacher Cecilia Revilla-Heglund said she would deeply miss Cognetta and her enthusiastic presence.
“I want to thank [Cognetta] from the bottom of my heart for taking me under her wing and assisting me when I first started at [SGHS] in 2002,” Revilla-Heglund said. “I will be forever grateful for her help and expertise.”
Though she leaves with a heavy heart, Cognetta is confident of the good state she has left the program in. Filled with wonderful memories, her heart remains with the students. And although she may be leaving, she plans to return to support the band and swim team in whatever way she can.