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Teacher feature: Joe Louden brings passion for music to his classroom at Ursuline Academy

Joe Louden is in his 21st year teaching at Ursuline Academy, which is in the background. He has been involved with music ministry since his grade school days. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Where Joe Louden goes, music is sure to follow.

The north Wilmington native has been a teacher and more at Ursuline Academy for 21 years, primarily of music, although he has served in other roles along the way. He also has taught Spanish and theology, and he has been the campus minister. But music is his first love and has been since his days at Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

“Sister Marie Antoinette was one of my mentors that really got me into playing at Mass. That started in third grade and hasn’t stopped,” he said recently.

He attended Salesianum School, graduating in 1985. While there, he was a member of all of the bands but not the choir. He now works with students at his alma mater.

“At the time, I didn’t even know (the school choir) existed,” he said. “And that’s part of the reason I love working at Salesianum now is to try to bring that out a little bit.”

He taught for three years at Sanford School in Hockessin before joining the faculty at Ursuline, where he is in his 21st year. It is a short walk from his home and fit his Catholic faith.

“When I saw this job open up, living two blocks from here, and knowing that this was a Catholic school, and I was raised in Catholic schools, I thought what a perfect fit to come to a school like this and apply my teaching with a Catholic background,” he said.

Being at Ursuline and at church doing what he loves is his “happy spot.” A lot of people his age are thinking about retirement, but that hasn’t occurred to him.

“What I do isn’t really work. It’s a passion. It’s what I love to do, and I feel really blessed that I found my calling,” he said.

Ursuline senior Ellie Johnson nominated Louden for the Teacher Feature. She calls his passion for music “unmatched.”

“Even on the roughest of days, Mr. Louden never fails to bring the energy of music to our choir,” she wrote. “Whether it be at a Mass, concert or just a typical Monday morning rehearsal, Mr. Louden’s positivity and overall passion for his work fosters an inclusive artistic environment that keeps his students engaged and curious.”

Louden said he enjoys running into former students, and that’s when he gets a real sense of the importance of his work.

“When you see how happy they are, and then they recount stories of their memories at school and you taught them, you really start to see the value of what you’ve done,” he said.

He said there is great satisfaction in knowing that he may have played a very small role in shaping their lives or that he may have had some kind of impact on them. Some of his former students have become performers, and others are music teachers. Others have told him that theater or choir helped them get through high school.

He said it feels good to be recognized by a student for his efforts.

“It’s a humbling experience. I’m very grateful for that,” he said.

Johnson said Louden’s love for his work and students is undeniable.

“He encourages us to step out of our comfort zones to grow as singers and individuals, adequately preparing us to be leaders in our communities within and outside of school,” she wrote.

Louden said he hopes to take the traits instilled in him at IHM and Salesianum in his students.

Louden is also the music minister at St. Helena Parish in Bellefonte, a position he has held for 34 years. He jokes that he has been at the parish longer than the pastor, Msgr. Stanley Russell, whose only been there for 29 years. He also leads a combined choir of Ursuline, Padua and Salesianum students that performs a few times a year, including a Christmas concert at St. Helena’s.

He and his wife, Ellen, have four children, the youngest of whom, Clare, is a freshman at Ursuline this year. He likes that they can walk to school together each morning and that she is in the choir. All of his children are musicians.

The family likes to take walks together and riding bicycles. They enjoy riding in their favorite vacation spot, Ocean City, N.J.

They also spend a lot of time with extended family. He is one of eight siblings, and Ellen is one of six.

“Lots of cousins,” he joked.