David Douglas Schools tune into national music award

Find out why the David Douglas School District was honored with a “Best Communities for Music Education” award – again …

Gathering at the music store that initiated the award, David Douglas High’s band director Jennifer Muller, choral director Christopher Silva, school district board member Mike Centoni, and incoming district superintendent Don Grotting, share a light moment.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) announced that the David Douglas School District (DDSD) was again being honored with their “Best Communities for Music Education”, award before summer vacation began.

But, it wasn’t until June 27 that the honors were made official, when Russ Beacock,  the president of Beacock Music – the Vancouver music company that nominated the District – officially presented them the award at their store.

Russ Beacock, of Beacock Music, welcomes guests to the award presentation ceremony at his Vancouver, Washington, store.

“Our trade organization is recognizing the David Douglas School District as one of the top-performing school districts,” Beacock explained. “Nationwide, only a handful of districts are being recognized; we’re happy that they decided to have us present the award to them here at our music store.”

Outgoing DDSD Superintendent Barbara Rommel talks about the district’s fifty-year commitment to music education.

Music education a tradition, superintendent says
“This year, we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a consolidated district,” outgoing DDSD Superintendent Barbara Rommel said, at the presentation.

“The unification of those three small, rural elementary districts took the vote of all of the citizens in the area to approve,” explained Rommel. “It was not an easy vote. Residents of the Gilbert District wanted absolute assurance the music program would continue if the districts merged. So, music has been a very important part of the David Douglas School District from its very beginning.”

Speaking to District music education teachers present, Rommel said, “It takes really dedicated teachers, like you, to make this program viable and a center of pride, in the David Douglas community.

“That’s why I am particularly excited about this award. But, I’m even more excited about the opportunities our students have, from kindergarten through high school, to explore a variety of music. Whether not they actually end up as a professional performer, like Patrick Lamb – or are just able to enjoy music – we feel successful in our efforts.”

Musician Patrick Lamb says he thanks public music education for giving him his start in music.

Surprise guest talks about music education
Rommel referenced internationally-known recording artist Patrick Lamb, because he was at the music store, as a customer, during the awards presentation.

After congratulating the district, Lamb said, “Chris Bodie (a contemporary jazz trumpeter based in Oregon) and I shared ‘beginning band class’. I just bumped into him in Tokyo playing the Blue Note. I tour internationally with [jazz artists] Bobby Caldwell and Dianne Schurr and Gino Vanelli – I’m a full-time musician. I really owe it to being in band programs. I’m personally very grateful for that.”

We asked Lamb what he’d be doing if he hadn’t gotten into music.

“Pressure washing roofs and sidewalks; maybe parking cars,” Lamb replied. “I got my start, my inspiration, at from the [Beaverton] Cedar Park Elementary band program. It was like, wow – this is really fun! So, I have a real appreciation for music education.”

Gathering for this formal award photo are former Lincoln Park music teacher (now Parkrose High School Choral Director) Lesley Bossert, DDHS Choral Director Christopher Silva, Menlo Park music teacher Suzi Zehsazian, Gilbert Park music teacher Val Ellett, Beacock Music President Russ Beacock, incoming Superintendent Don Grotting, DDHS Band Director Jennifer Muller (partially hidden), Superintendent Barbara Rommel, Floyd Light music teacher Molly Fazio, and Ron Russell Middle School music teacher Tawnya Garcia.

A student-centered program to continue
Christopher Silva, the choral director at David Douglas High, reflected, “This is recognition that we have a broad level of success in our music curriculum. It’s representative of the support that we have from the district administration, the school board, and the broader community.”

Many neighboring districts have been cutting back music, noted Silva. “We still remain strong, and have a very student-centered program.”

Incoming DDSD Superintendent Don Grotting agreed that music programs are valuable in education. “Research shows that, for students who are exposed to music at an early age, it helps stimulate different parts of their brain, and enhances other parts of their education.”

About the future of music at DDSD schools, Grotting stated, “Music is a great attribute for the district. I look forward to continuing our fine arts programs.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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