At the end of the 2011–2012 school year, music teacher Debby Duda will retire after teaching her entire 29-year career at G. C. Burkhead Elementary School in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
As a beginning teacher, she learned about a new MENC sing-along event she thought her students would like. It was the World’s Largest Concert® (WLC®), and Duda taught the children songs so they could participate in MENC’s first national sing-along event in March.
She and her students enjoyed the event so much that she continued the tradition, and her students have participated every year since 1985— that first year. There are a few changes this year, though. MENC is now officially known as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and the concert has a new name: “Concert for Music in Our Schools Month.”
The WLC concert linked students around the world through music, and the WLC reached an estimated 6 million students, teachers, and music supporters over the years. A highlight of Music In Our Schools Month®, the new title Concert for Music In Our Schools Month® reflects the Concert’s place in NAfME’s annual month long celebration of school music.
Debby Duda rehearsed with students in the classroom.
While the “official date” of the Concert for Music In Our Schools Month is Thursday, March 8, at 1 p.m., all teachers are encouraged to get creative and teach and sing with their students any number of the Concert songs at any time during March 2012 — whenever it fits into school and community schedules.
Something else will be new this year: Duda’s students recorded a segment for the concert video. “We were singing the songs last year, and a few of them said, “How do we get to sing in the video like those other kids,” Duda said recently. For her last year, she looked up information on the NAfME website about submitting a video proposal, sent one, and was selected.
“It was a bit of work but so worth it. Everyone is so excited. The entire school of about 800 kids and all of the teachers are participating. I thought it would be more fun if everyone was a part of it.” The school will perform the song “Discussin’ Percussion.”
She said it was important to her to have a schoolwide event, which is why she recorded their concert segment in the school gym.“We couldn’t possibly take 800 kids to another location,” she said with a laugh.
Duda led the entire school, teachers and students in performing “Discussin’ Percussion.”
In March, Duda will have her students gather to watch the Concert video. “I know you can perform the Concert anytime during the month, but I like tradition of that specific day, the second Thursday in March,” she said.
And the concert will have an even wider reach in March because she arranged with a local cable channel to broadcast the concert.
In late December Duda learned she was named Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012.
“What a year! I don’t know how the remaining months of my last year can get any better,” said Duda, who originally graduated from college with a business degree, but decided music was her real calling and went back to school.
After retirement she will work with the youth worship band at her church. She will also take memories with her, like the boy who was failing most of his subjects but gained confidence after she chose him for a concert solo.“That is what I hang on to. The times I feel like I made a difference,” Duda said.
—Roz Fehr, January 10, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)
Photos by Amy Labriola and Angela Carter