Tom Batiuk is the creator of the comic strip Funky Winkerbean. A 2008 Lowell Mason Fellow, Batiuk was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the comic strip, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012. Batiuk, a former middle school teacher, is such a fan of music education that he created the comic strip, Halle Dinkle, just for MENC members. He has a new one highlighting MENC’s Music Education Week.
In Funky, Batiuk chronicles the lives of students and faculty at Westview High, including Harry Dinkle, the self-proclaimed "World’s Greatest Band Director." In one of Harry’s early appearances he is seen directing the marching band in the driving rain muttering, “Music is worth it. Music is worth it.”
A new volume of cartoon strips will feature more of Harry’s early days as the director of the "Westview High School Scapegoat Marching Band." The Kent State University Press will publish The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 1 in 2012, the first of a series of volumes surveying all of the Funky comic strips. Funky Winkerbean appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide.
Halle is Harry’s daughter, and the MENC comic strip chronicles the trials and triumphs of a general music teacher, mirroring music classroom life, from student questions to budget cuts to ongoing training. That is one reason Halle would find professional development opportunities like MENC’s Music Education Week useful.
A longtime supporter of school music programs, Batiuk attended MENC’s Rally for Music Education at the U.S. Department of Education in 2009.
"It was incredibly exciting to be a participant in the Rally," Batiuk recalls. "MENC asked if I could create a cartoon using my Funky characters to present to Secretary of Education Duncan, and, of course, I was more than happy to. I heard the Secretary of Education remark on PBS recently about the importance of art and music in the curriculum, so it seems the Rally helped reinforce that idea."
"Secretary Duncan seemed very pleased with the cartoon," Batiuk added. "He remarked that it was his first appearance in one."
Look for quarterly postings of Halle. Previous Batiuk cartoon strips:
Secretary Duncan’s cartoon strip
Tom Batiuk Hears an impromptu concert while on an African safari.
Halle’s return to the classroom
–Roz Fehr, May 26, 2011 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education