Life Lessons Rooted in Lebanon
Lebanon police officer and percussionist, Tim Cohen, has been a member of the Upper Valley community for almost thirty years.
Cohen, 55, studied music during college and then went on to work in the radio industry for several years. His job as a radio broadcast announcer is what originally brought him to New Hampshire to work on a local morning show.
His move to Claremont from Cape May, NJ in 1993 led to the discovery of the Lebanon Police Department and their dedication to the community of Lebanon. Cohen’s past experiences with police officers in larger cities such as Cape May, where he grew up, were less influential on his present career than the officers who he’s engaged with in the Upper Valley.
Officers in larger cities are often not very person-oriented, Cohen said. They are more focused on their job and enforcing laws than knowing who the people are that they engage with.
Since Upper Valley towns are relatively smaller in comparison to bigger cities in the United States, Cohen says, “Local officers are much more community-centered and are doing it for the right reasons.”
In fact, Cohen was so inspired by the local police force that in 1995, he joined the Canaan Police Department as a police officer. And then in 2006, he joined the Lebanon Police Department.
Meanwhile, Cohen also worked as a music teacher, a job he still has today. Cohen teaches and plays percussion instruments, generally as part of an orchestra. His favorite instrument is the timpani – also known as “kettledrums.”
Cohen teaches private music lessons and is an instructor at the Upper Valley Music Center (UVMC). On top of these jobs, Cohen is also involved with local theatrical performances such as Lebanon High School’s performance of The Addams Family, running Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 4 at the Lebanon Opera House, and Hartford High School’s fall musical, Footloose.
Cohen says that his involvement with music has helped create a balance in his life. “Working as a police officer, one can inherit a cynical attitude towards the world. As an officer, you tend to see people at their worst,” he said. “Music can help balance those negative experiences out.”
Working with teenagers as a music teacher, the ability to see how talented local youth are is thrilling, Cohen said. He’s also worked with many adult performers at places such as the North Country Community Theater (NCCT), some who have even performed on Broadway.
His favorite part about working with all of these performers is that they are kind and genuine people. Cohen sees beyond peoples’ flaws when they are playing music, which serves as a reminder that even though people make mistakes, they’re still good and talented people, a lesson that has been helpful to Cohen not only as a musician but also as a police officer.
As a part of his police training, Cohen trained at the FBI National Academy for ten weeks in 2002, which is one of his favorite life experiences. One fun connection that Cohen made from this is to the movie The Silence of the Lambs. The obstacle course that main character Jodi Foster runs in the movie was an actual obstacle course at the academy, which he completed himself during his training there.
Cohen has also been able to work with K-9’s (police dogs) as a police officer. He’s handled two different dogs throughout his career and says that their ability to use their senses – such as smelling and hearing – is simply incredible.
Another favorite experience of Cohen’s was visiting Hollywood in 1986. During his spring break in college, he flew out for the recording of a song that he had written, which was being performed on a popular show from the 1980s, Star Search. Seeing this whole other world that he was able to be a part of – even though for a short period of time – was exciting for him.
In general, Cohen enjoys knowing that some of the music he has composed has been played by many different orchestras and bands, including NH Philharmonic, Great Western Rocky Mountain Brass Band, Upper Valley Community Band and Kearsarge Community Band. Getting the chance to play up and down the East Coast with many different musical groups has also been a rewarding experience for him.
Much of the time that Cohen is playing in an orchestra, he’s in the “pit” – an area inset below the stage often not visible from the seating area. “Being in the pit, you tend to wear black,” Cohen says. It is common for members of the orchestra to wear darker colors so the audience’s attention is directed to the performers. In fact, it has become something that the Lebanon police officers tease him for.
Working with officers in Lebanon for 16 years, his coworkers have gotten to know him well and always comment on his all-black attire. With the busy schedule that Cohen keeps, he generally works as an officer until about five-o’clock in the evening before heading to a performance at a local theater or to teach. Without much time to change, he wears a lot of black so he’s always prepared for his performances. Sometimes, he even keeps his drums in his car since he has to commute for different events and students.
Living locally for the past 30 years or so, Cohen has fallen in love with the Upper Valley. “I grew up on a beach [in Cape May], but I’ve been here half my life and it feels like this is home,” Cohen said.
“A big part of this feeling is the community,” he added. Having welcoming neighbors and really good friends makes a huge difference, he said. “I love how much I trust the neighborhood – the ability to leave my drums somewhere overnight and not worry about someone taking them is great.”
Cohen values the sense of community and belonging that he’s found in Lebanon and the surrounding area, which inspires him daily. Between the hours he puts in serving Lebanon as a police officer and the time he spends working as a musician, Cohen has learned the importance of balance – a life lesson he’s put to use in Lebanon and beyond.
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