“Being Brave, Being Bold, Being Kind, Being Just, Being Loved”
NAfME Member David LaMorte
By Lisa Ferber
This article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Teaching Music magazine.
A music educator in New York is the recipient of the 2018 George N. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.
David LaMorte, assistant principal of visual, performing, and career arts at Tottenville High School, Staten Island, New York—and winner of the 2018 George N. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education from NAfME and Music for All—says that his days go well every day.
“If middle school kids like you and you can motivate them, they will do anything to succeed,” says LaMorte. He tells of a student who asked how he could get a metronome. “I took it out of my bag, and I said, ‘I’m gonna give this to you. Can you get some triple-A batteries?’ And he said ‘Yeah.’ The smile on his face . . . I said, ‘Remember this when you get older so you can do the same for someone else.’”
LaMorte—who was born in Chicago and raised on Staten Island—supervises culinary arts, ROTC, architecture, and automotive courses and teaches marching band and symphonic band. “As an AP [assistant principal] of a comprehensive high school, you have to be a jack of all trades.”
He credits his high school teacher Laurence Laurenzano as the reason he became a music educator. “How he treated everybody . . . everybody was special for him, and you wanted to please him,” recalls LaMorte. “Everybody knew he did all he could for his students.”
“The best part of my day is being in the classroom with my students.”
After earning undergraduate degrees in music education and performance at the State University of New York at Buffalo, LaMorte went on to teach junior high. He earned his graduate degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and states, “I’ve never had a break from school.” He has run the New York State School Music Association Adjudications and Major Solo Festivals for 25 years at Tottenville High School.
“The best part of my day is being in the classroom with my students,” remarks LaMorte. “I would tell new teachers you have to know your minor instruments, because you’ll be teaching nine instruments at once in some cases. You have to be around to tutor your kids and be around if the principal asks, and that becomes your life; you live it day by day, and it becomes part of you.”
LaMorte cites the importance of the Bs: “Being Brave, Being Bold, Being Kind, Being Just, Being Loved.” As an example, he recalls, “This one kid was struggling, and he wasn’t doing the right thing, and I gave him a sticker with the Bs on it, and I said, ‘Put it in your wallet.’” The student later told him, “Mr. LaMorte, every time I go into my wallet, and I see that sticker of the Bs, it reminds me to do the right thing.”
“It’s a challenge,” says LaMorte, “but if we get these kids to be successful, then we get to be successful.”
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