Consistency– a measure of success or an essential component of it? Both.
But the complex world of teaching requires more, and Northmor Local School District’s vocal music teacher Dana Ruth brings it all to the table.
The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.”
Nothing touches feelings probably more so than music.
“She teaches more than music,” says junior high principal and longtime colleague Dennis Ervin. “She teaches a little bit about life, relaxation exercises, posture and how it relates to concentration … she covers lots of stuff.”
“I love music,” says Ruth. “Hopefully, I have shared that love with my students. It has always been my goal for my students to see and experience the positive power of music.”
This fall, Ruth will begin her 32nd year of teaching music and, more importantly, teaching exclusively at Northmor after graduating from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music in 1985.
“There tends to be a lot of movement of teachers between schools, especially in the elective courses,” says Ervin. “Through the years, she has built this music program up to create a demand for music learning from a small supply of students, and if you see the product, the quality is obvious. She is an asset to the district.”
Starting out as assistant band and marching band directors, her duties have also included teaching general music classes in junior high, as well as a high school choir class of 20 students.
“Today,” she says, “we have both junior and high school choirs of around 85, auditioned junior and high school honors choir, as well as an auditioned show choir, the Knightsounds.”
“Knightsounds perform at area banquets, dinners, and meetings,” according to Ruth. The group stages a major production each year, alternating between a dinner show and a musical. “Last year the students chose a Disney-themed dinner show performance they called ‘Where the Heart Takes You’ which took in $2,000,” she says. The dinner charge and raffle proceeds were donated to a student chosen charity of cancer research at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “Previous dinner shows have benefited organizations such as America Sings, The Stephanie Spielman Breast Cancer Foundation, Hair Theater (wigs for cancer patients), the Red Cross, and Wounded Warrior,” she adds. “They have also performed in Toronto, Washington DC, and Disney World.”
According to Ervin, “Actually, our whole music program is special. Our instrumental program is very good, and our vocal program is outstanding. We have two very good music teachers. Chris Kaschube does marching band and instrumental music in addition to a jazz and concert band. The numbers are also up in his program,” he notes. “The two teachers complement each other very well, and they share kids in several programs. These are two, top notch, high quality teachers.”
“I most enjoy collaborating with my colleagues,” she says, “and I have been able to do what I do due to a strong base at the elementary level – that’s where it all starts.” And while it takes a small army of assistants to stage the annual shows, Ruth also says some her best teaching memories are of working with Northmor English teacher LaNeta Wertz. “She has been invaluable to me, assisting with the Knightsounds over the years,” she adds,” and I am very proud of our collaborations.”
“I couldn’t say how many hours she puts in outside of class with the honors choir programs, but it’s a lot,” says Ervin. “The Knightsounds do a lot of dance and choreography so
there’s a lot to it. Many times I’ve walked through the cafeteria, long after school is out, and they are up on the stage practicing. She is very dedicated,” he adds.
“I am thrilled when I have students come back and tell me how they are now encouraging the love of music in their own children.” says Ruth. “It is such a pleasure to see students mature and grow, not only musically, but physically and emotionally as well.”
As Jung said, “The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Dana Ruth embodies this philosophy.