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NHS band director earns national honor

School news — Joel Tanner named in December as one of School Band and Orchestra Magazines 50 Directors Who Make a Difference


As band director for Newberg High School, Joel Tanner received School Band and Orchestra magazine and knew of its 50 Directors Who Make a Difference feature, but never really paid too much attention.

For the most part, Tanner was too busy with the business of running a music program — conducting bands, interacting with students and impacting their lives for the better — to follow the award. Of course, that attitude is a major reason why the magazine bestowed the honor upon Tanner.

The cause of his shock upon hearing he had been named to the prestigious list was also one of the reasons he didn’t keep track of the award series that closely: he simply never thought he would win.Joel Tanner, NHS music teacher

“It came completely out of the blue,” Tanner said. “It was a huge surprise and was just confirming that the battle I’m fighting is going well.”

The magazine also has an open nomination process, so there was no way for Tanner to know he had even been nominated, let alone was in the running to receive the award and be included in the subsequent article.

Phil Hodapp, who is the school’s instrument representative for Beacock Music in Vancouver, Wash., visits the NHS band room on a weekly basis and was the one who submitted the nomination. As someone who visits more than 200 schools in Oregon and southwest Washington every week, he has a unique perspective on Tanner’s abilities.

Hodapp has known Tanner since his five-year stint at Roseburg High School and said he has seen teachers who either have the ability to really connect well with students who are struggling or those who excel, but rarely both. Tanner is a notable exception.

“He cares about kids, puts in a lot of extra time for his kids and seems to make a difference in what they do,” Hodapp said. “Everywhere he goes, kids are more well-rounded individuals, not just musicians, because of his influence.”

Green School Principal Karen Pugsley was anything but surprised by the award because Tanner’s teaching acumen is something students and staff at the high school have known about for quite some time.

“He instills not just a love of making music, but a passion to make music and that shows with the kids he’s working with,” Pugsley said. “I’m very pleased and very proud of (Tanner) and his accomplishments. The fact that other people recognize it now, too, is just an added benefit for him. He’s amazing.”

Tanner, who received a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in education from nearby Pacific University, did his student teaching at NHS in 1999 and stayed in touch with former NHS band director Dick Elliott after starting his career at North Marian High School.

If there is any one thing he is most proud of from his tenure in Newberg, it’s the upgrade in equipment and instruments funded by the 2011 bond measure, but he told the magazine it’s the little things that he finds most rewarding, like the homeless student who went on to become a professional musician or the girl who came back five years after leaving the program to thank him.

“There are contests and festivals; that’s the thing you feel good about for a week, but it’s not the thing you hang your program on, at least I don’t,” Tanner said. “It’s the things that I remember when I go home. It’ not necessarily that I have a plaque on my wall that says we qualified for state. It’s working with individual students and helping them become successful.”




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