By Casey Hans
Orchestra students of Dan Long might recall the infamous Pink Panther story: How, some 20 years ago, Long climbed onto the Slauson Middle School roof to cover the skylight so that students could play a pre-rehearsed piece in the dark for their pink-themed concert, intending to surprise the audience with pink attire when the lights came up.
What few knew was that Long – who taught band and orchestra at Slauson for 35 years – had his own “pink” surprise. Wearing a rented Pink Panther costume, he made it to the conductor’s podium, but not before tripping and falling in the darkened auditorium. When the lights came up, the crowd, including the students, roared.
It’s one of the many memories – and a bit of his humor – that Long shared when talking recently about his time working in The Ann Arbor Public Schools. Long retired 8 years ago several years after his wife, Kay, also an Ann Arbor music teacher, retired.
The two have lived in the same house in the neighborhood around Dicken Elementary School where they raised two children and now enjoy visiting grandchildren.
“The memories I have are absolutely priceless,” Long said.
But Long is remembered for more than the “pink” episode: The E. Daniel Long Fund for Excellence in Music Education – administered through the Ann Arbor Community Foundation and named for the beloved music educator – received enough in donations this year to award its first grant. Friends, colleagues and many music parents from around the county have donated to the fund over the past eight years. Organizers hope to build the fund to $100,000 so it will become self-sustaining. For now, the fund continues to accept donations.
“It’s going right to the students,” he said of the fund’s donations. “It’s terrific. For me to see the students continuing to benefit from the efforts of lots of people. Fifty years from now, I hope it’s still going.”
Deborah Katz, band director at Scarlett Middle School, has received the $1,000 award, which can be given to any music teacher in Washtenaw County. He’s particularly pleased, he said, that an Ann Arbor teacher, and friend, received it.
“It could not have happened to a better program, he said. “Deb’s a colleague, a friend. I could not have been more pleased.”
After Long retired, several teachers and/or parents started the fund. Lynda Berg, Inger Shultz, Amy Goodman, Margaret Guire got it off of the ground and have continued to help raise money in Long’s name over the years.
Many others have taken the baton for continued fundraising. Dean Baxtresser, a former student and now an attorney, penned a fund-raising letter saying of Long: “His commitment to education has helped countless students like me develop discipline, discover beauty and enjoy camaraderie – skills and experiences that last a lifetime.”
Dan Long called Slauson his home base for his many years in the district. His philosophy has been to influence the many students whose lives he touched. “Students may not remember anything you taught them, but they will always remember how you treated them.”he said.
He was inspired to teach because of his own teacher in Nebraska, where Long was raised. “Mr. Thompson was my high school teacher. He taught me the joy of music,” he said. “I came home one day and said ‘I want to be just like Mr. Thompson.’”
And so, he did. In addition to all of the students he influenced at Slauson, he also founded the Ann Arbor Youth Symphony, which is part of the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts. He has been an adjunct and guest lecturer at the university level and has served on the faculty at the Interlochen National Music Camp, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. Over the years, he has made fast friends of many professional musicians and professors, always bringing their experiences to the classroom to benefit students.
Long has received numerous awards, including the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association’s 1980 Teacher of the Year, the 1989 Michigan ASTA Teacher of the Year and the 1997 Elizabeth A. H. Green School Educator Award given to the nation’s most outstanding school music teacher from the American String Teachers’ Association and National School Orchestra Association.
Kay Long said they are both thankful for their many years working and living here. “Ann Arbor was a wonderful place for young teachers,” she said. “Our colleagues were our friends, our mentors. We both wouldn’t be the people we are if we didn’t live here and have this experience.”
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090 (internal ext. 51228.)