A Third National Award for Delavan-Darien’s Music Program

District is among 4% of school districts in nation to receive NAMM “Best Communities” distinction

IMAGE: middle school band students playing instruments

Phoenix Middle School band students at a rehearsal.

Delavan, WI – For the third time in four years, the Delavan-Darien School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.

Delavan-Darien is one of just 4 percent of districts across the nation receiving the prestigious award in 2017. It is one of just 23 districts in Wisconsin to receive the honor, given to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

“These districts and schools set the bar in offering students access to comprehensive music education,” according to the NAMM website.

The district earned the award in 2014, 2016 and 2017. It did not apply for the award in 2015.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Delavan-Darien music staff answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“We have what I believe is an extraordinarily high percentage of students who choose to be involved in music for a district of our size,” said district strings director Jennifer Bayerl. “Students choose to participate because we have great teachers, courses and co-curricular opportunities at all levels. Our community supports what we do and, as a teacher, that means so much to me.

“The NAMM award recognizes that our community is behind us and proud of what our Delavan-Darien music student achieve.”

IMAGE: NAMM Award LogoThe award recognizes that the Delavan-Darien School District is leading the way with music learning opportunities as outlined in the new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation, signed into law in December 2015, and awaiting state implementation designates music and the arts as important elements of well-rounded education for all children.

The award brings to attention to the importance of keeping music education part of curriculum offerings and available to all students. It also highlights music’s vital role in students’ overall success in school and the personal benefits of making music.

Delavan-Darien offers general music for all elementary school grades, string instrument instruction starting in fourth grade, band and percussion instrument instruction, and a variety of choir, orchestra and band courses for middle and high school students.

At DDHS alone, there are four different choir levels, a guitar and percussion ensembles, an African drumming course, marching and symphonic bands, jazz bands, various levels of orchestra and a symphonic winds course. Additionally, students can study music history, the history of rock ‘n roll, and earn Advanced Placement credit in a music theory class.

The district’s music program supports a strong theater arts program, and all schools also have multiple public performances annually, both in the schools and out in the community.

DDHS Senior Makenzie Gordon says that music in her school day is valuable because, “it is a positive social environment that can help someone make friends and making music can help   person cope with negative emotions. And, being in music opens up opportunities for college and scholarships.”

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music. In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University, a link was found between students in community music programs and life-long academic success, including higher high school graduation rates and college attendance. The study showed that participation in music education programs helps improves brain function, discipline and language development.

“Studying music has intrinsic benefits and on its own, is core to learning,” said Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “The schools and districts our foundation recognizes are building on that connection between music and academics. These schools and districts are models for other educators who see music as a key ingredient in a well-rounded curriculum that makes music available to all children, regardless of zip code.”

In another study from Northwestern University, it was discovered that the benefits of early exposure to music education improves how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood.

Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations, as well learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.

A 2015 study, “Striking A Chord” supported by the NAMM Foundation, also outlines the overwhelming desire by teachers and parents for music education opportunities for all children as part of the school curriculum.

“We have been awarding the Best Communities for Music Education for 18 years,” said Luehrsen, “and it is heartening to see how many parents and community members check to see if their schools have been recognized. Parents are choosing to live where schools are committed to music education offerings that are part of the curriculum.”

About The NAMM Foundation

The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by The National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,300 members around the world. Its mission is 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 www.nammfoundation.org.

Elementary Teachers

IMAGE: Donna Berg

Donna Berg

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. Just two years ago, Ms. Berg launched the first ever Elementary Honor Choir in our district and it has become a great place for our 4th and 5th graders to get on the path to becoming great singers.

IMAGE: Peter Finnegan

Peter Finnegan

Peter Finnegan: Peter Finnegan came to the Delavan-School district in 2014. He earned a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Concordia University Chicago and a Master’s of Music degree from Northwestern University. His prior experience includes starting and nurturing a string instrument program at Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park, Ill., and ten Lutheran elementary schools in the west suburbs of Chicago. He has also taught general music in Chicago at urban public and private schools. Finnegan’s main instrument is the violin and he has extensive experience on percussion and guitar.  Currently, he performs with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra. Finnegan believes all children have talent and talent can be developed through hard work. He is very proud of the fourth- and fifth-grade band and orchestra students he teaches and enjoys seeing them progress on their way to becoming life-long musicians.

IMAGE: Joan Guzman

Joan Guzman

Joan Guzman: Joan Guzman joined the Delavan-Darien School District in 2016 after teaching general music in the South Bronx as well as the Lower East Side of Manhattan for eight years.  A Wisconsin native, Guzman earned her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  After graduating, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in vocal performance.  Guzman earned her master’s degree in music education from the City University of New York-Queens College.  She has earned her level III certification in Kodaly from New York University.  She has studied at the Zoltán Kodály Academy of Music in Kecskemét, Hungary as well as voice through the Centro Studi Italiani opera program in Urbana, Italy. Guzman currently teaches general music to the Kindergarten at Wileman Elementary School and to the fourth and fifth grades at Darien Elementary School.  In addition, she directs the Darien Elementary Honor Choir.  Guzman believes strongly in the sequential learning process of the Kodaly method of teaching music.  She believes that children learn concepts best by experiencing music through listening, singing, and movement… learning by doing!  These experiences create vital connections not only to musical aptitude but to one’s community outside the classroom as well.  Guzman is also a member of the Organization of American Kodaly Educators (OAKE).

Middle/High School Teachers

IMAGE: Jennifer Bayerl

Jennifer Bayerl

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 currently  member of the American String Teacher’s Association and has been 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.

IMAGE: Mark Butzow

Mark Butzow

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 earned by the Phoenix Middle School Music Department, which he credits to hardworking students and fellow music teachers.

IMAGE: Jim Larson

Jim Larson

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 he is Director of Choirs at DDHS. Larson also directs or co-directs many of the DDHS Theater productions each year.

IMAGE: Julie Ropers-Rosendahl

Julie Ropers-Rosendahl

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.

IMAGE: Nick Stark

Nick Stark

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 taught a wide array of musical disciplines including jazz and marching band, guitar ensemble, music technology, and music theory. Stark also previously taught band classes at  Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park, Ill., and  Lutheran High School South in St. Louis. Stark has Master’s degrees in Wind Conducting and Music Composition from Central Michigan University and  a bachelor’s in Music Education from Concordia University (River Forest).