Howard Lake Herald, November 10, 1997

Minn. music educator of year from HLWW


The state music educators' convention will honor Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) music teacher Chris Starr as a Minnesota Music Educator of the Year in February at its convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Starr is in her 25th year of teaching in the HLWW Schools.

The first seven years she taught elementary classroom music and directed fifth and sixth grade choirs.

In the fall of 1980, she assumed the high school vocal music position, which includes directing six choirs (grades 6-12), teaching a seventh grade music class, serving as department chair, and coaching the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) Music Listening Team.

In addition, she gives voice and piano lessons and accompanies the fall musical each year, which HLWW presents in cooperation with Dassel-Cokato High School.

She grew up in Blackduck, Minn., where her father was her band and choir teacher. Her mother taught elementary music in Blackduck.

Starr is a graduate of Bemidji State University with a major in music education and piano performance.

Later, she did graduate work at Bemidji State, Hamline University, St. Cloud State, and the MacPhail School of Music.

As representative for Region V-VI for the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) from 1994-96, she met with the board of directors three times a year for two years.

This group sponsors a music conference for music teachers in the state every February and oversees the state band and choir camps, she said.

"It was very interesting to serve on this committee and learn the behind the scenes workings of an organization I have been a part of since I started teaching," Starr said.

Starr has been the staff accompanist for several years for the Bemidji State summer music camp and worked with conductors Paul Brandvik, Doug McEwen, Lloyd Pfautsch, Bev Henson, John Windh, Paul Gulsvig, and Paul J. Christiansen.

She has accompanied the MMEA all-state women's choir all but one year since its inception.

During the one-year hiatus, she traveled to Israel for the Zimriya Choir Festival in Jerusalem.

"I went to Israel for an international choir festival after (receiving) an invitation from my college choir director, Paul Brandvik, who was a guest conductor at the festival," said Starr.

The Zimriya Festival is held every three years, and there were choirs from all over the world, she said.

Highlights of the trip for Starr were visiting the old city of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) and spending a weekend in a kibbutz with a family in the northern part of Israel near the Jordanian border.

"It was fascinating to learn about Israel and Jewish customs and to talk to singers from other countries," Starr said.

She said the Israelis are all taught English in school, so it was very easy to communicate and learn from them.

"While at the kibbutz, I talked to survivors of the holocaust and observed Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath," Starr said.

Under her direction, HLWW choirs have performed at MMEA, American Choral Directors' Association (ACDA), and Music Educators National Conference (MENC) regional conventions.

Senior high choirs, along with the band, have traveled to Chicago and Washington, D.C. and have taken many trips around Minnesota.

In addition, Starr has presented "How to Build and Maintain a Successful Small School Choral Program at ACDA and led the Minnesota Elementary Music Educators (MEME) elementary choral reading session at the MMEA midwinter clinic.

"The advantage of teaching music in a small school is that you have the students for many years, and you really get to know them and watch them grow as musicians and as people," Starr said.

Teaching in a small school can also be a real challenge, because it does not have the huge numbers to draw from for its program, and you have to work very hard to keep the students you have in your program, she said.

Keeping these students in the music program has resulted in even more awards and honors for the department.

The HLWW Minnesota Public Radio Music Listening Team has advanced to the state level three of the last five years.

Starr has been a guest conductor for the District 16 high school honor choir, Staples area festival choir, and the elementary celebration of young musicians in Howard Lake and Dawson-Boyd.

In fall 1996, the HLWW concert choir was invited to sing at the annual Leadership in Educational Excellence Award (LEEA) banquet in St. Cloud.

She received a LEEA award in 1993. This award is presented by the Central Minnesota Educational Cooperative to four teachers each fall. Recipients are chosen by the teachers of each district.

Starr was the clinician for the Schmitt Music new materials reading session for the elementary school choral this past summer.

In addition to all her school responsibilities, she is a church organist/pianist at two churches, Christ Lutheran Church in Glencoe and All Saints Lutheran Church in Norwood Young America, where she was also the children's choir director for three years.

Her professional memberships include the MMEA, MENC, MEME, ACDA, HLWWEA, and MEA/NEA.

"I have always felt a lot of support from this community for its music program and have appreciated the support from the administration for the music department," said Starr.

According to Starr, the music teachers have been given a lot of freedom to develop their program and their curriculum, and she credits a lot of their success to this.

"I have been blessed to teach with many talented music teachers and the success of our high school program deeply depends on the strong foundation our students receive in elementary music," Starr remarked.

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