In Memory of Mike Gangemi


Samantha Sharou, Staff Writer

Mike Gangemi, Mr. G, (1972-2021) a band teacher at Santiago High School recently passed away over the summer. The news crushed best friend, Joe Dudek, and many band kids that had Mr. G. 

Mike Gangemi got the job at Santiago High School from Mr. Joe Dudek who already worked at the school. When being interviewed, Mr. Dudek explained how he met Mr. G for the first time, “when I [Mr. Dudek] called him to… ask for help organizing… [a] judge’s event in Thousand Oak.” When the band first knew of Mr. Perish, the old Santiago band director, retiring, Mr. Dudek started looking for someone to take his place. About 2 years before Mr. Perish was set to retire, Mr. Dudek thought of Mike Gangemi as someone who would be best suited to take Perish’s place. Mr. Dudek thought of Mr. G becoming the new band director, because of him, “knowing what an amazing educator he was.”

When people first heard of Mr. Gangemi going to work with Mr. Joe Dudek, they’d say things like, “I can’t believe Gangemi is going to Santiago, that’s like the Dream Team,” and soon that became a thing between both directors. Through the years they’d always have their thing, #DreamTeam, and would always say it to each other. They worked together so well and even had the best accomplishments together.

In 2021, Gangemi was nominated for the gold award for SCSBOA, and was also, “recognized as an outstanding jazz educator.” Between the both of them, Joe Dudek and Mike Gangemi shared a CASMEC award that their jazz band got to play for. Along with the accomplishments already stated, they’ve both shared and have been a part of the awards the bands have gotten through marching and performances.

After being at Santiago for 2 years, Mr. G’s health turned for the worse. In late February to early March, Dudek, “notices him having some health issues.” Even with those issues, after covid was calming down and schools were opening back up, Mr. Gangemi was there the first week. During April, in spring break for the school year, his health drastically changed and Mr. Gangemi had his first of many trips to the hospital. Even after going to the hospital, after spring break, Gangemi was back in school to help teach. After a few more times of going into the hospital, the doctor’s diagnosis for him was that, “he was in kidney failure brought on by… liver disease… stage 4 or 5 liver disease.” With some extra research and time, if you have stage 4 liver cancer you have 4-11 months to live depending on the severity and if it gets treated in time. If you have stage 5 liver cancer, there is no cure. The survival rate for stage 5 is 5%.

When everyone heard about the dreadful news, they took it hard, especially the band kids. “I remember sitting in the class, being happy that Mr. G was back, because the class hadn’t seen him in awhile, and everyone just sat there. No instruments out or anything. That’s when he told us the news,” a student said. Another student, when talked to, also spoke about what he said after he told them the news. “I remember vividly him even saying, ‘Don’t worry guys, I’m not going to die’.” Even with everything going on and just the fear of it, he was strong and reassured everyone. He kept shining even when he was hurting and making jokes to make everyone laugh.

Even when asking students after he passed, you can tell by how they talk about him, that even with him gone, he still is here, he still made an impact. He was “funny,” “friendly,” and “amazing.” Mr. Gangemi made his life so that it not only was great for himself, but for others as well. He was there when you needed him and to cheer you up. Mr. G was a helping hand and someone you could trust. “Mr. Gangemi wasn’t just a teacher, he was a friend to everyone,” is what one person said at his memorial.

Finally, to let you think about everything, let’s leave off on this quote from Mr. Dudek, “My general feeling is that we really got robbed of someone who was not just an amazing music educator and teacher for our students, but we kind of got robbed of an amazing human… a very kind soul, very funny, and an inspiring… [person]. He was the kind of guy that could spark, ignite, a passion for music in people… Our students got robbed of having that person around for… generations of Santiago students.”