Instrumental music teacher Dennis Heidel is the most recent winner of the KSL/Zions Bank Teacher Feature Award.
Here’s the nomination letter submitted by a Bennion Jr. High patron:
I represent my family in nominating Mr. Dennis Heidel, instrumental music teacher at Bennion Junior High school, for consideration as KSL Teacher Feature Award. Fourteen years ago Mr. Heidel left work in the private sector and became a junior high school music teacher where he has influenced the lives of more than 160 students each year. That is approximately 2,240 students whom he has taught to study, love and perform music, and to become better people as they contribute to the world around them. His love for each student emanates from his very being as he goes above and beyond what is asked of him.
Any student who wants to be in one of the bands or orchestras is accepted, encouraged, and taught to be a contributing member of the group. If a student has never played an instrument, Mr. Heidel teaches him/her. With 50 students in the first year Cadet orchestra, that individualization would seem impossible, but not with Mr. Heidel. Because of Mr. Heidel’s personal daily preparation, each student has a copy of the desired music or assignment and is fully involved as a member of the group. He maintains a professional and controlled atmosphere in which each can learn and participate. Mr. Heidel pays particular attention to the needs of each student and deals well with all different levels of skill; challenging the more advanced students while helping the less advanced performers. He uses technology to enhance his teaching. A student can go to the practice room, record his/her performance, listen to it and then practice to improve. Praise is a part of Mr. Heidel’s daily routine, but so is encouragement to do better. The students admire and respect him. While presenting several concerts a year, the students gain confidence and self-mastery.
The Jazz Band includes 46 students as opposed to the standard 18. Anyone who tries out is accepted, no matter what the instrument. Jazz bands don’t ordinarily have violins, violas, cellos, flutes, clarinets or guitars. Allowing unusual instruments like these puts extra work on Mr. Heidel because he has to arrange or secure music for the extra instruments. In this band, Mr. Heidel unpredictably points to a student, either in class or while performing, and he/she stands and performs a short solo. What a challenge! The students accept it and do an excellent job. At regional competition, it is an accepted fact that the Bennion Junior High Jazz Band will receive a superior rating.
I have two grandchildren who have progressed through Mr. Heidel’s music program. The first began playing an instrument in 4th grade. Under Mr. Heidel’s direction, she grew to love playing her saxophone so much that she continued in high school and now plays with the Granite Youth Symphony Orchestra. The second child, who has some physical and social disabilities, has learned to play the clarinet and has stayed in band all three years. He practices, attends class regularly, and has learned to do what, for him, is a hard thing. Band has also been an excellent opportunity for him to be part of a group where he is accepted, loved, and encouraged.