Dennis Dearth, Clover Park High School’s band director, is the 2009-10 Mountain Region Music Educator of the Year. Dearth was nominated for the award by fellow music teachers in the Mountain Region as part of the Washington Music Educators Association.
Dearth got his start as a music teacher at White Pass High School 33 years ago. After a year of teaching, he moved to Bellarmine Preparatory School for a year and then to Clover Park High School, where he’s taught for the past 31 years. He’s always had an interest in music and got his start playing the clarinet in sixth grade at Custer Elementary School. Dearth moved on to play the bassoon as a ninth-grader at Hudtloff Junior High School, an instrument he still plays today. Dearth is a Lakes High School graduate and earned his bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Puget Sound (UPS) and a master’s degree in music from Central Washington University. He credits his desire to teach music to Bob Musser, past director of winds and percussion at UPS and Fred Schlichting, a former orchestra director at Lakes High School and a former district supervisor of music. It was Schlichting who urged him to come to Clover Park from Bellarmine.
“I love watching students get excited about music,” said Dearth. “Music is an important aspect of life and can help shape a student’s path and disciplines. The majority of my former students have important careers and credit music for teaching them to set goals, be leaders and to work with a team under pressure.”
At Clover Park, Dearth teaches symphonic band, four first year steel drum classes and an advanced steel drum class.
“I have a lot of fun with my students, but I also demand a lot from them,” said Dearth. “They work hard and they rise to meet the challenges I present. There is no ‘end’ in music—even after 33 years I’m always looking for ways to be a better teacher and a better musician.”
Dearth has played the bassoon in the Tacoma Concert Band since 1980 and is one of only a few original members. He recently traveled to France to perform in a community band festival near a beach where the WWII Allied Forces landed. Dearth described the performance as “emotionally memorable” and noted that many locals had tears in their eyes as they remembered the events of the war.
When he’s not teaching and playing music, Dearth spends time with his wife Mary and sons Erik and Chris, who both graduated from Clover Park and attended district schools since kindergarten. Dearth also enjoys fine woodworking and recently built a cedar kayak that he and his wife use to enjoy the area’s water.
When asked about his career thus far, Dearth smiled and credited his students’ energy for keeping him young.