Mike Gallagher

Currie High School music teacher Mike Gallagher.

Music is in Mike Gallagher’s blood. His father played drums and sang in a number of bands so there was always music in the house. And, Gallagher began his own music lessons at age five, first studying piano then taking up the trumpet and guitar in school.

Teen music teacher

“I have been a teacher of music for over half of my life,” Gallagher, who teaches music at Curie High School, said. “I first began teaching, giving guitar and piano lessons to other kids in the neighborhood after school. I found joy seeing my students grow and find enjoyment learning and playing music. I realized then that teaching was a shared experience.”

Born and raised in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood on the South Side, Gallagher attended Mt. Carmel High School. At the time, however, the school didn’t have a music program, so he studied it through a community program with DePaul University. After graduation, he received his bachelor’s degree in music performance from DePaul and then earned his masters in education at Chicago State University, where he met his wife of 14 years, who was also an educator. 

In 2012, after teaching in the south suburbs for a few years, Gallagher accepted a half time music position at a CPS elementary school on the West Side and then, in 2017, began working full time at Curie. He teaches guitar and electronic music and he directs the school’s Adidas Sound Lab, an after school program that allows students to record their original compositions in a sound studio located at the school.

Curie High School Sound Lab

Curie is one of only three schools in the country with sound labs and that’s a big reason Gallagher landed at the school. 

“Recording and producing are a passion of mine, so working with students in the Sound Labs program was one of the main reasons I wanted to teach at Curie,” he said. “It’s an amazing program that allows students to explore and expand on their abilities in a professional recording studio.” 

Gallagher said the favorite part of his job is sharing his passion for music. “I love seeing students grow and evolve in their interests and abilities,” he said. “Most of all, I love when students who have taken my classes as an elective discover that they have a talent for music and pursue it further.”

Music career 

Outside of the classroom, Gallagher has a flourishing music career. He has performed keyboards and guitar for a number of national and international artists spanning a range of musical genres. He has recorded two solo albums and has produced music for television shows on networks including MTV, ABC and NBC. 

Photo of CTU member Mike Gallgaher (center) with J-Ivy on the Today Show.

Mike Gallagher joined J-Ivy for an appearnce on the Today Show.

Last year, he attended the Grammy Awards with his long-time friend and collaborator J-Ivy, who won the award for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. Gallagher and fellow Chicagoan J-Ivy have been friends for more than 20 years and Gallagher himself earned a Grammy nomination for performing on a live album with the artist two years ago. Gallagher will be performing with J-Ivy at Ravinia this summer. 

Whether in the studio, on stage or in the classroom, Gallagher said he is always thinking of ways to translate his experiences into lessons for his students. “Every experience that I’ve had in performing as a musician becomes a part of my teaching, whether it’s related to teaching students music or just imparting important life lessons,” he said. 

CTU booster

Gallagher joined the CTU when he started in CPS, but he became a CTU booster long before that. His wife was a CPS teacher and both her parents were, too. On his second day at work in CPS, he went out on strike, meeting many of his colleagues for the first time on the picket line. He marched with friends and family members in the historic 2012 strike and again in 2019.

“I truly believe that CTU represents the voice of teachers, students and their families and that, together, we are always seeking the best possible outcome for all our students, teachers and families,” he said. 

Now, he is looking forward to what we can achieve in our next contract with a new, pro-public education mayor who shares our vision for the schools Chicago children deserve. 

“Protecting and growing music education programs is always a top priority for me, because music education provides the greatest opportunity for students to exercise higher order thinking skills,” he said. “And, it’s also a lot of fun and our students desperately need the creative outlet that music provides.”