By Casey Hans
Deborah Katz has worked in and around music for 33 years. Now, the Scarlett Middle School band teacher has hit a high note by earning the first E. Daniel Long Fund for Excellence in Music Education award.
Katz, who has spent 22 years in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, encourages all students to discover the love of music – a philosophy that led her to plan a Scarlett Middle School Band Clinic Day this fall. On a selected day in October, students will have an opportunity to work with experts for each individual band instrument. It is for this new event she earned the $1,000 award.
The E. Daniel Long Fund for Excellence in Music Education is named after longtime Ann Arbor music teacher Dan Long, who is now retired and whose coworkers and colleagues around Washtenaw County – as well as parents and friends – have contributed to the fund over the past eight years. It is administered by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and can be given to any music educator in Washtenaw County.
“I was really pleased about it,” she said. “I expected the competition to be really stiff. I know Dan and Kay (Dan’s wife, Kay Long.) The relationship is important to me. It’s nice to be the first one – and to say to Ann Arbor teachers ‘you can get this.’”
The inaugural award was announced at the end-of-year retirement get-together for the Ann Arbor Public Schools music department. Katz said she would be more than willing to help other teachers who have good ideas apply for the grant in future years. “It would be nice to see an Ann Arbor teacher get it in future years,” she added.
Robin Bailey, the district’s Fine Arts Coordinator, said she also was pleased that the award went to Katz. “Dan Long was such a cornerstone of the Ann Arbor Public Schools music department,” she said. “He was beloved by students, parents and staff, and so it is fitting that the first award go to Deb Katz for her incredible dedication to the students and Scarlett community.”
For the clinic day, Katz approached music professionals at both Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. “Part of my desire was to get really high-quality music teachers,” she said. “So that when they walked in the door they’d have a good idea of what students need.”
“We have a lot more students who can’t afford to study privately,” Katz explained, saying that is what gave her the idea. “And we have a wealth of musical talent in Ann Arbor.”
For the daylong event, students will get their own two-hour clinic by grade, with time in the middle of the day as an open drop-in time for students to interact one-on-one with the professionals. The 10 experts will host clinics on the following instruments: flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, baritone/tuba and percussion.
Between 120 and 130 students are involved in the Scarlett band program and Katz said she would like to “grow the program and raise the bar at the same time.” She has been the band director there for three years.
In Ann Arbor, every student in the fifth-grade plays a instrument, which helps stimulate interest in music and the band program in middle and high schools. Not only does Katz work with her middle school students, but she also visits Scarlett’s feeder elementary schools to encourage fifth-graders to participate in band when they arrive in middle school. Katz encourages the fifth-graders to try instruments to see what they like and most students continue playing the same instrument when they arrive at middle school.
“It’s a huge benefit to know the kids when they come in. We have a connection,” she said. “Kids in fifth grade know what we expect. I know exactly who’s coming.”
Katz said, although she received a grant award only for this fall’s event, she would like to see it continue. “For me, this is Clinic Day No. 1,” she said. “This is not a one-time deal. If one of our goals is to give the private lesson experience or to get them interested in private lessons, we need to continue this.”
She said introducing students to members of the Ann Arbor music community is also part of the plan. She hopes that Scarlett can forge a relationship that may continue over the years. “I hope it is something we can do once or twice a year,” she added.
About the award:
The E. Daniel Long Fund for Excellence in Music Education is named for longtime Ann Arbor music teacher Dan Long, who still lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Kay. It is administered by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and can be given to any music educator in Washtenaw County. For information about the award or to make a donation, visit www.aaacf.org or call 734-663-0401.