UPDATE (March 29, 2016): Delavan-Darien won a second Best Communities for Music Education Award.
DELAVAN — Students and teachers in the Delavan-Darien School District have been making beautiful music and entertaining the community for years.
Today, the district was recognized for its music-making and music-educating efforts.
The National Association of Music Merchants recognized Delavan-Darien as one “Best Communities for Music Education.” Delavan-Darien is one of just 376 schools nationwide, and one of 13 districts in Wisconsin, to receive the distinguished honor. (SEE: Full list of recipient districts.)
“I think this award says we’re meeting the needs of our students,” said Janet Palmer, a music teacher at Turtle Creek Elementary School with more than 33 years experience. “Music is so important. Often times at other schools, it gets shoved off to the side because teachers have to be so focused on core subjects. But music is important for every kid. It’s not just for those struggling or those excelling. It offers a level playing field for everyone, and it really is like learning a second language.”
In its 15th year, the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) Award affirms school districts that have demonstrated exceptional efforts toward maintaining quality music education as part of the schools’ core curriculum. Districts that receive the award “set the bar in offering students access to comprehensive music education,” according to the NAMM.
More than 2,000 U.S. schools and school districts were considered for the award.
“These schools and districts make a strong commitment to music education in the core curriculum, supporting its essential value to a well-rounded education for every child,” said Mary Luehrsen, NAMM Foundation executive director. “Strong, engaging programs that offer students access to music cannot thrive in a vacuum. The Best Communities designation brings hard-won visibility to music classes, programs and departments that are keeping music education alive in our schools.”
The BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction. The NAMM Foundation, with the assistance of researchers at The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service of Lawrence, Kansas (an affiliate of the University of Kansas), evaluate participants on these factors. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and greater access to music education.
Delavan-Darien supports music programs in all five of its schools, with general music classes starting in kindergarten and ranging all the way through an Advanced Placement music theory course at Delavan-Darien High School. Concerts are frequent for all grade levels and supplemental music instruction — such as the annual Opera for the Young production and an annual high school trip to places as Carnegie Hall in New York City to study with world-renowned Composer John Rutter — gives all students the opportunity to be a part of making music.
The district is also one of only two school districts in Walworth County to offer a strings (orchestra) program. Delavan-Darien students can start learning a string instrument in fourth grade, while band (winds/percussion) instrument instruction starts in fifth grade. In high school, the orchestra and band groups perform concerts individually and together as the DDHS Symphony.
The DDHS and Phoenix marching bands are popular pieces of parades in the area, and the DDHS Pep Band entertains fans at Comet varsity basketball and football games each year. The DDHS String Choir — a small ensemble of leading student strings musicians — often plays at community events throughout the year, such as festivals and fundraisers. The DDHS Jazz Band is well known for its improvisation and swinging sounds of a truly American art form. The high school also offers a class in African Hand Drumming.
Both Phoenix Middle School and DDHS offer strong choral program options, as well as extracurricular theater programs that produce several stage performances every year. Past Broadway productions have included Cats and Once Upon A Mattress, which was performed this spring. Like the String Choir, the DDHS Lydian Choir — made up of the top choral singers at DDHS — performs often at community events.
Lastly, each year DDHS and Phoenix Middle School students participate in the Wisconsin School Music Association Solo and Ensemble Festival with many students qualifying annually for the state festival. Students also often participate in music clinics with college professors from UW-Whitewater and Marquette University.
Palmer said all Delavan-Darien music teachers incorporate core subject content into music lessons. For example, music in the elementary levels often involves counting and math skills, while high school musicians can study the history and geography of when and where a composition was written.
“A growing body of research shows a correlation between participation in music education and student achievement in school and overall,” said KU researcher and professor Christopher Johnson. “Music and the arts make a very positive contribution to the general success of the school and connection to the community. Access to music and the arts as part of the core curriculum contributes to lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates, higher ACT scores, and all the while, children learn the joys of music and all the life skills it fosters.”
As school districts across the United States grapple with 2014-2015 budget allocations — including Delavan-Darien with an operational referendum coming up April 1 — the announcement of this year’s Best Communities for Music Education designees brings fresh focus to the significance of music education programs. Past designees report that receiving a BCME designation significantly buoyed support for their schools’ music education programs.
“’Best Communities’ has helped us maintain our music budget when other school programs have been greatly impacted by the current economic crunch,” said Richard Tinsley, music education specialist for Henrico County Public Schools in Richmond, VA. “Also, it has been a source of pride for our community, students, and administrators, and is often used as a selling point that local real estate agents use with potential buyers considering home purchases in the Henrico County school locality.”
The BCME program is one of the NAMM Foundation’s foremost efforts to bolster support for school-based music education programs that must be available for all children. Providing music education for all students is something any community can accomplish if it has the collective will to do so, regardless of size or affluence.
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About Delavan-Darien’s Music Teachers
Donna Berg: Donna Berg came to the Delavan-Darien School District in 2002. She has taught music at Turtle Creek, Darien, Wileman and Phoenix. Before coming to the Delavan-Darien School District, she worked with professional singers and dancers on many stages in schools, theaters and theme parks. She spent 10 years at Disneyland in California where she sang, danced and directed many of the talented entertainers there. Her 30-plus years of educational and show business experiences make her a lively and enthusiastic part of the staff and make her classes fun. An Illinois native, Berg received her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Indiana University. Berg has a passion for music and the performing arts and hopes to provide a safe place for the children of Delavan and Darien to discover their talents and learn how to let their lights shine.
Janet Palmer: Janet Palmer is an Elementary General Music Specialist at Turtle Creek Elementary School, and she also serves as the Fall Play Director and Assistant Musical Director at Delavan-Darien High School. She has been teaching music since 1981, when she graduated from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Prior to coming to Delavan, she taught vocal music at all levels in districts in Illinois and Wyoming. Outside of the school day, Palmer serves as an accompanist, music director, and director of community and professional theatre groups, and as a church musician.
Tom May: Tom May began his teaching career at the middle school level and came to Delavan-Darien in 2001. He currently teaches orchestra and band instruments at all three Delavan-Darien elementary schools. He also assists the 6th grade orchestra program at Phoenix Middle School. May is happy to be a part of the Delavan-Darien School District and finds his work of helping students through the early stages of playing an instrument to be a very rewarding experience. May also enjoys composing and arranging music for his students and is published through the Hal Leonard Corporation. May received his undergraduate degree in Music Education from UW-Whitewater in 2000. In 2004, he also received a Master’s Degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. In addition to teaching, May remains active as an accompanist for Solo & Ensemble events and as an adjudicator for area piano festivals.
Middle and High School Teachers
Jennifer Bayerl: Jennifer Bayerl has been teaching Orchestra students in Delavan-Darien since 1997. Before coming to Delavan-Darien, she taught general music in Whitefish Bay and South Milwaukee and Orchestra in Mukwonago. Bayerl earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music with certification in Music Education from Alverno College in Milwaukee and her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Walden University. Bayerl is a cellist, having begun playing through her public school program at the age of 10. She currently performs on occasion with various orchestras and small ensembles. She is a member of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater String Advisory Board. Bayerl is proud to tell people that she teaches in Delavan-Darien, believing this is a vibrant community with great families who value education and support the arts. She feels that students who study music are exercising their brains, their muscles and their souls. Music is a gift that brings people together from all walks of life.
Mark Butzow: Mark Butzow earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the fall of 1996 and completed his Master of Music Education from the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago in the summer of 2004. He began his teaching career as a substitute band director at Phoenix Middle School, where he continues to teach today. Academically, Butzow is responsible for Music Technology, Eighth Grade Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and Concert Band. His primary commitment is the success of all students of music in the Delavan-Darien School District. He is extremely proud of the excellent reputation bestowed on the Phoenix Middle School Music Department, which he credits to hardworking students and fellow music teachers.
Jim Larson: Jim Larson has been with the Delavan-Darien School District since 2000. He is from Kenosha and is a graduate of Tremper High-School. His Bachelor’s in Music Education is from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Larson also has a Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Larson began his teaching in the Milwaukee Public School system, where he taught Kindergarten through sixth grade music for nine years. After a sabbatical while working on his master’s degree, Larson taught in the Madison School District at West High School. He then came to DDHS, where is Director of Choirs at DDHS. Larson also directs or co-directs many of the DDHS Theater productions each year.
Julie Ropers-Rosendahl: Julie Ropers-Rosendahl joined the Delavan-Darien School District in 2004 after teaching band and choir in the state of Illinois for 10 years. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Music Education. She did additional vocal work at UW-Green Bay. Her Master’s of Curriculum and Instruction from the College of St. Scholastica was earned in 2000. She currently teaches Choir, Piano Lab and General Music at Phoenix Middle School. In addition, she is a co-director of the school musical. She and her students can frequently be found making music in the school’s “midi” piano keyboard lab.
Nick Stark: Nick Stark is the Director of Bands at DDHS, a position he has held since 2013. He came to the district from the Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Illinois, where he was a music teacher. He also has band-directing experience at Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park, Ill., and at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis. He loves creating and sharing music with students, and also performing music, including being in a part of his church band. Stark has Master’s degrees in Wind Conducting and Music Composition from Central Michigan University. He had a bachelor’s in Music Education from Concordia University (River Forest).
About NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a non-profit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its 9000 members around the world. The NAMM Foundation works to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit http://www.nammfoundation.org.