Archive for June 9th, 2013


Honoring Dan Keller

June 9, 2013

All-State Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the Maine Music Educators Association banquet in May where awards were presented to individuals for their accomplishments and commitment to music education. The following was prepared by Sue Barre, music educator from Waterville Senior High School who nominated Dan Keller for the Maine Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. With her permission, I re-print Sue’s introduction.

IMG_3338It is my pleasure to introduce a new member of the MMEA Hall of Fame.

Tonight I will share with you the reasons I nominated Dan and share some thoughts from former students and colleagues that have arrived as word went out about this recognition.

Dan has been an advocate for music in the Waterville Public Schools for the past twenty-six years.   In the fall of 1986 he started with six students in the high school orchestra and a vision for a strings program.  He currently teaches two hundred students in grades 4 through 12 and maintains an inventory of over one hundred string instruments.

Dan is the Chair of our High School Visual and Performing Arts Department and has served a curriculum coordinator for the music program.  Dan’s vision for a well-rounded music education for all students has shaped our department K-12.   A student in the Waterville Public Schools receives forty-five minutes weekly of general music from kindergarten through grade 5.  During grade 4 general music students explore violin for one quarter and recorder for a second quarter and then are given the choice to continue with strings or general music for the second half of the year.  Literally every student in 4th grade in the Waterville Public Schools plays the violin.

If you enter the classroom where Dan teaches the 4th graders you begin to see Dans personality through the collection of 20 clocks on the wall, different shapes and sizes, all displaying different time zones (Dan has likely traveled to each time zone and will share antidotes from his trips with students)

Ask any 4th grader what piece they are learning and they will happily tell you “Mary had a can of spam” and skip off to the next activity and watch Dan walk through the playground at the end of the day as the students try to high five him, he looks like the pide piper!

One alumni – opened his note of congratulations with this commentary “ Dear Mr. Keller about twenty years ago, we blew off cello lessons at the Albert S. Hall School to tape paper cutouts of a scared man and a hungry whale to the hands of a wall clock and watch the resulting pursuit”   I don’t know if you remember that – but it continues to be one of my favorite memories of school as a kid.

In grade 5 students continue with general music and in addition are offered the opportunity to take part in band, strings or chorus.   The band and string students each attend a thirty-minute lesson and all three ensembles rehearse for thirty minutes weekly.

At the Junior High School the band, chorus and strings programs meet five days a week for sixty minutes a day!  This schedule affords Dan and I the opportunity to team-teach weekly.  We gather over one hundred string and band students and study the composers and music history with the seventh and eighth graders and the sixth graders work on the basics of music theory.   Team teaching weekly keeps me energized and motivated.

When you walk into Dans’ Junior High Room you will see, in the corner a penguin who lights up when plugged in and wears a festive scarf, this penguin has never missed a concert at the Junior High always sitting next to the bass section…and on the wall are rhythms for warm-up – #1, then #542, then # DH ……  Why?   Just because this is Dan J

A second letter came from a former student who stated :  I had sneezing problem in school and would sometimes start sneezing and would not stop 10-15 + sneezes later.  Inevitably this would happen during orchestra reharsal.  This became a running joke in Orchestra and Mr. Keller would keep a tally of how many sneezes in a row I would get on the chalkboard!

Dan has clear expectations for all of his students; he has reminded me that the sky is the limit.  Each year he will choose a subject to study with the high school orchestra.  This year he is concentrating on ear training and intervals, students take an aural and written quiz weekly.   Music students in Waterville expect written and playing quizzes weekly.  This has become standard.

A note from a former student reads:

“Having played in Mr. Keller’s ensembles from 5th grade through senior year of high school, I was witness to some absolutely fantastic teaching. Rehearsals were intense, fun, productive, zany, exhilarating, hilarious, enlightening, educational. His passion for music combined with his off-the-wall personality created an uncanny ability to retain string players from their elementary through secondary years, as he retained me. Now, as a doctoral student in organ performance, I still jump ahead of the curve in music history classes because of something I learned from Mr. Keller, or remember a music making axiom of his when practicing. I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a student of Dan Keller.

Dan has an extraordinary ability to look at the big picture.  He is the first to send me home or off to one of my children’s games.

He can often be heard reminding his fellow educators “we have a job that never ends, so don’t stay here to finish, go home to your family”.

Some could interpret this as a negative statement but I have come to appreciate the need for balance.

Dan is a mentor and a friend, he has taught me a lot over the last seven years.   He is most deserving of this honor.   As I solicited letters from his colleagues and parents of his students there was never a hesitation, always a smile that grew as people heard of the criteria for the nomination.  It is my hope that now Dan as a member of the MMEA hall of fame will begin to realize the significant contributions that he has made as a music educator in Waterville Maine and beyond.

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