Congratulations to David Thaxton, ACEMM’s January 2017 recipient of the Spotlight Award!
“David Thaxton is a Spotlight Award recipient because of the rich lessons he has taught both teachers and students…His understandIng of elemental music and his captivating personality push practicing teachers like me to enthusiastically embrace elemental music and movement.” – Alexandra Coghill, WCSD Colleague.
Elemental Music in the School Community
For the past seven years, David has worked as a music teacher at Diedrichsen Elementary School. As part of a school that is dedicated to social-emotional learning, David has used his knowledge of the Orff approach to create an environment where students interact with each other not only socially but also aesthetically. Numerous students submitted letters of support for David’s Spotlight nomination, citing his humor and kindness as a large part of their love for music. As David states, “In short, they love making music and dance because they view themselves as valued and artistic individuals.”
Each day, David teaches eight or nine half-hour classes, along with a chorus, a percussion club, a guitar club, and an hour-long enrichment course. In these classes, David takes his students on a journey that can encompass both happiness and sadness. “[He creates] a safe space for them to experience, discuss, and understand all the human emotions,” shares colleague Alexandra Coghill, in reference to a particularly engrossing lesson based on “Old Abram Brown.”
“It is a risky form of teaching,” David acknowledges, “…but it is also cathartic in that it allows the practitioner to get a larger view of how students perceive the material and what they need in the way of skills and concepts to progress.”
Helping Fellow Educators
David is well-known in his professional learning community, both within his district and at the local and national levels of the American Orff Schulwerk Association. Since 1998, David has taught in the Washoe County School District, and he has served on multiple committees, and organized a wide variety of workshops for peers. WCSD Fine Arts Coordinator, Julye Neel praises David on the many ways that he has earned the trust and respect of his fellow educators. “He has served peers with care, empathy, humor and skills that others aspire to develop,” shares Ms. Neel.
In the local Sierra Nevada Orff Chapter, David has served as president, coordinator, and chair of hospitality. As colleague Kay Judson says, “[David] has hosted movie night at his home. He selects a few titles from conference presentations about the Orff process…and [members] discuss what they have seen and how they can improve their process.”
At a national level, David has presented at the American Orff Schulwerk Association national conference and served on the board of two AOSA publications. In his 2013 presentation named “iShulwerk,” David guided participants through exploring an elemental rhythm using iPad to create different timbres. As a member of the editorial board of both the AOSA Echo and Reverberations, David was able to use both his skills as an author and as a music educator to assist teachers across the country. “I can truly say that every bit of time and energy I put into serving in this capacity has returned rewards many-fold, and I am grateful for having been given the opportunity.
Three Cheers for David!
“Mr. Thaxton has the best ideas and has great enthusiasm. He is surely the best music teacher you will ever meet.”
– Maelea Dyer, 7th grade student
“David is a leader among peers and has demonstrated potential to lead nationally – well beyond the boundaries of our school district and state.”
– Julye Neel, Fine Arts Coordinator, Washoe County School District
“His understanding of elemental music and his captivating personality push practicing teachers like me to enthusiastically embrace elemental music and movement.”
– Alexandra Coghill, colleague
“Mr. Thaxton helped me grow into loving music…the program has really grown and it’s really thanks to Mr. Thaxton’s drive into making it great!”
– Hannah West, 9th grade student
“He spreads the joy and magic of music wherever he goes. I have continued on with music and singing and it is all because he showed me the love of music. Not only has he inspired me to continue music, he has also inspired me to become a teacher, which I can’t wait to pursue. There is no one more deserving of receiving an award than Mr. Thaxton.”
– Crystal Flowers, tenth grade student
In David’s Words
The elemental approach is nothing short of revolutionary in the way it transforms teacher and learning. By giving children simple and accessible building blocks and shifting the focus from “replicate” to “play,” they grasp incredible rich concepts as they explore how they work and how they combine to construct larger forms. Beyond gaining a deep understanding, children also develop a sense of ownership in their creations and view themselves as creative and expressive beings. – David Thaxton
ACEMM would like to praise David Thaxton on his leadership in his many learning communities. He serves as an inspiration both his students and his peers, and works tirelessly to help all become better musicians! Congratulations!