Musician Scott Gagne chats with Lewiston Middle School eighth-graders as musician Suzie Assam listens backstage at a school assembly on Tuesday. The two former Lewiston Middle School students were aspirational speakers at the assembly, and they also sang and played guitar. “Music really is an amazing healer,” Assam said.

LEWISTON — When she was a Lewiston Middle School student, Suzie Assam was often sad over the death of her mother.

“My weight yo-yoed all over the place,” she said.

She wasn’t popular.

In college, she endured anxiety attacks and depression.

Still, “here I am on the stage, a confident, happy, complete person,” Assam, 25, told Lewiston Middle School students Tuesday.

Scott Gagne, 24, also a former Lewiston Middle School student who is now a successful musician, told students it’s important to be passionate about what they care about, “but you can’t take things too seriously.”

“Make a little bit of noise,” he said. “Have some fun.”

Speaking to a student audience who has undergone sadness this year with the death of two students, Assam and Gagne shared tips with eighth-graders on how they can successfully transition to high school.

Both talented performers, they sang and played guitars.

“Music really is an amazing healer,” Assam said. “I found nothing more effective to help me through the toughest time in my life.”

In school, Assam said she was one of few people of color until the fourth grade. She liked school, but other kids called her the teacher’s pet. The teasing wasn’t severe, “but enough that it mattered.”

At home, “I was forever grieving the loss of my mother,” who died when she was 5. In college, in addition to her anxiety and depression, her boyfriend had his own problems and emptied her bank account. One of her good friends died.

At that point, she was living in South Carolina, 1,200 miles away from home.

“I felt completely alone and helpless,” she said.

She moved back to Maine, where she had support from family, who reminded her of principles she shared with students. 

“You are not alone,” Assam said. She had help from teachers, who she thanked Tuesday. Whether it’s parents, siblings, teachers or friends, “there is someone out there who has your back, always. Please don’t ever let yourself believe that you have no one, or nothing.”

Life is messy, she said, and people can’t get all their needs met from just family or friends.

“You’re not meant to live a perfect little jigsaw puzzle life where everything fits together,” she said. “Enjoy the sloppiness.”

Today she works for a great company, able to support herself and her dog. She’s working on an album, hoping that her music and her story will inspire others.

She told students when things get tough, take a breath.

“Regroup. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty,” she said. “You’ve got this.”

Scott Gagne, 24, grew up in a musical family. He played hockey and was a tennis star. His father, Ernie Gagne, is a Lewiston teacher. He called his mother “positive Patti.”

Gagne started playing guitar at age 8. At 12, he told his father he wanted to quit. Playing hurt his fingers. It was hard. His father said he could quit, but if he did, “you’re going to regret it the rest of your life.”

He kept playing and singing, through high school, college and after college. He performed in school talent shows, chorus, music festivals, then paid gigs. A country music artist, he’s planning to move from Florida to Nashville.

Gagne shared advice his grandfather gave him, to decide what was it that he wanted in life: “‘After you decide what it is, you can have it.'”

That sounds cool at first, Gagne said. But it can be daunting.

He told students they need to believe they can achieve what they want, and they need to recognize opportunities when they appear and say yes.

Sometimes saying yes is difficult, he said.

Other advice he gave to students was that they need to be present. “Is everybody present right now?” he asked, his cheery voice animated. “Are you listening? Let’s make some noise!”

Students cheered.

He and Assam performed original music, followed by songs the students knew.

Their last number was Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” Students sang along.

After, eighth-grader Arabella Clemons, 14, said the talks were good to hear. Assam’s story shows “that we will get past this. It will get better. And eventually, we will have opportunities.”

A band member, Clemons gave the speakers a thumbs-up for talent.

“They are really good,” she said.

Suzie Assam and Scott Gagne, both former Lewiston Middle School students, perform a song together at the middle school Tuesday. The two are former Lewiston Middle School students and this year’s “Steps To Accomplishing Real-Life Transitions” speakers.


Scott Gagne listens backstage to Suzie Assam performing one of her songs. The two were invited as part of the LMS Stars assembly on Tuesday morning with the theme “Music Heals”.

Scott Gagne listens backstage to Suzie Assam performing one of her songs. The two were invited as part of the LMS Stars assembly on Tuesday morning with the theme “Music Heals”.

Musicians Suzie Assam and Scott Gagne perform Tuesday in front of a crowd at Lewiston Middle School. The two former Lewiston Middle School students spoke to help inspire eighth-graders to become high school students. They offered encouragement in what’s been a tough year for the school. “Music really is an amazing healer,” Assam said.

“You are not alone. … Whether it’s parents, siblings, teachers or friends, “there is someone out there who has your back, always. Please don’t ever let yourself believe that you have no one, or nothing.” — Musician and aspirations speaker Suzie Assam


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