Teacher Feature: Dr. Gary Compton

Gary Compton

The Teacher Feature blog series celebrates our faculty’s passion for education and their joy in the journey of building our students’ futures. In this series, we will get to know these beloved educators. Just like our students and families, our instructors matter here. To learn more, visit our website.


With his credentials and experience, there are many things Dr. Gary Compton could be doing every day, but Academy at the Lakes is where he chooses to spend his time.


It’s simple: Because of our community – something that has drawn families and faculty alike to Academy.

“We talk a lot about our community, and it really is true,” Dr. Compton said. “The people I get to work with are amazing.”

Before he became a part of the Academy family, Dr. Compton received his Bachelor of Music and his Bachelor of Music Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, his Master’s Degree in Music Performance (trumpet) at the University of Denver, and eventually his PhD in Music Education at the University of South Florida.

With those kinds of specialized degrees under his belt, we could assume that Dr. Compton always wanted to be a music teacher.

This was not quite the case.

, Teacher Feature: Dr. Gary Compton, Academy at the Lakes

“I never really thought about being an educator or anything like that. I wanted to be the captain of the Starship Enterprise,” he joked. “In school, I was a typical 13-year-old kid who liked science fiction, I liked to read adventure novels, but I didn’t really do anything with music aside from play the horn at church and at school.”

As graduation from high school neared, he decided that majoring in music made the most sense.

“By my last year of high school, I had a feeling I was going to do something with music and it evolved into getting my degree in Music Education,” Dr. Compton explained.

Immediately after receiving his degree, Dr. Compton began teaching in both private and public schools, spanning all of the grade levels from Kindergarten to 12th Grade.

After several years of teaching, Dr. Compton made a big change and took a position as the Divisional Music Director with the Salvation Army in Denver, Colo. a change that would move him to the United States from Canada.

During his time in Denver, Dr. Compton joined The Denver Brass, a one-of-a-kind professional chamber ensemble. He was the only graduate student among professors.

“It was a great experience, musically,” he said. “I used to think, ‘What am I doing here?’ But, I held my own.”

The Salvation Army eventually took Dr. Compton to Michigan where he conducted and played in bands.

A few years later, Dr. Compton spoke with the Head of the School of Music at USF, a connection he maintained throughout his career, hoping to find an opportunity that would relieve him of the northern winters.

That opportunity happened to be a Presidential Fellowship with USF – something only offered to 10 people across any discipline.

“I was in a group of people who were in Chemistry and Psychology, so I was pretty fortunate to land that,” Dr. Compton said.

Dr. Jack Heller was Dr. Compton’s faculty advisor during his Fellowship at USF.

“Dr. Heller mentioned that his son, Mark Heller, was Associate Head of School at Academy at the time and that is how I came here,” Dr. Compton said.

That was nine years ago.

Now, Dr. Compton teaches Middle and Upper Division students at Academy while also playing his trumpet as a freelance performer when he isn’t in the classroom.

“I think [teaching] has made me a better person,” Dr. Compton said. “Sometimes you don’t realize these things while you are going through them, but it has.”


Teacher Tidbits: Get to Know Dr. Compton


Color: Blue

Animal: Orangutan

Kind of Music: Romantic

Food: Pizza

Villain: Kahn Noonien Singh

Superhero: Phil Smith

Finish the Sentence

My favorite subject in school was … history.

When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to be … Captain Kirk.

I love when my students … succeed.

I love teaching at Academy at the Lakes because … of my colleagues.

When I am not at school, I like to… bike ride and watch Netflix.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was… to marry my wife.

Fun Things

In the movie of your life, what actor would you want to play you and what would the movie be called?
George Clooney – The Townie.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

If you could interview anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would you interview and what would your first question be?
Lee Harvey Oswald. “Who was your accomplice?”

If you could have any artist (alive or dead) draw a picture of you, who would you choose?

If you could go back in time, where would you go and what would you do?
Sept. 10, 2001, for obvious reasons.

If you could live the life of any fictional character, what character would you choose?
Wylie Coyote. I would get the Road Runner.


Students’ Turn!

We had Dr. Compton’s students answer one question: What is your favorite thing about your teacher?
These are some of the responses:

  • 1, Academy at the Lakes
  • 2, Academy at the Lakes
  • 3, Academy at the Lakes
  • 4, Academy at the Lakes
  • 5, Academy at the Lakes
  • 6, Academy at the Lakes
  • 7, Academy at the Lakes
  • 8, Academy at the Lakes
  • 9, Academy at the Lakes


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, Teacher Feature: Dr. Gary Compton, Academy at the Lakes