The “Music in the School” program was begun over a decade ago as an outreach of the Washington Island Music Festival Committee. Contributions to the Committee have been earmarked for providing the Washington Island Community at large with a quality music education program in the local school.
Dan Hansen was the first “Music in the School” teacher. He retired in the spring of 2011, and Donna Briesemeister took up the effort from there. Both have been Wisconsin DPI fully certified music instructors, with years of experience in public schools.
Twice a week instruction is offered to all students, kindergarten through the 8th grade. The program focuses on music appreciation and on rigorous study in music literacy; that is, reading and writing, as well as keyboard instruction. This year an instrumental element has been added. Donna has six private students, preparing to play flute, trombone, horn and guitar. Jim Morris also meets weekly with an intermediate flute student for lessons. The generosity of Carol Amadio has made instruments available at no cost for the students who need them.
Donna Briesemeister, an Island resident since 1984, was the Music Festival Committee’s teacher for “Music in the School” during the 2011-2012 school term at Washington Island School. During the preceding five years she was general music/choral/band director for a small rural K-12 school district in north central Illinois. For eleven years, before leaving the Island to teach, Donna, along with Diane Kahlscheuer, co-taught a Music Appreciation program for elementary students in the Washington Island School. This program was also sponsored by the Music Festival Committee. Donna worked with Marilyn Gau and Barb O’Connell from 1984-1995 in a cooperative choral project for elementary students, jointly sponsored by Bethel Ev. Free and Trinity Ev. Lutheran churches. She taught as a regular music teacher in the Washington Island School from 1987-1989. She attended Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, and graduated from Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA, with a B.S. in Music Education, majoring in voice.
Dan Hansen has served as music educator in the Washington Island School. He serves as a mentor and teacher to many young Island musicians. Dan is director of the Red Barn summer entertainment programs and is known in the community for planning musical programs, composing, arranging and performing. He directs the choir at Trinity Lutheran Church and performs regularly at T. Ashwell’s restaurant in Ellison Bay. He has composed many songs and several large-scale choral works, including “Make A Joyful Noise”, commisioned by the Washington Island Music Festival for the christening of the new ferry, the Arni J. Richter in 2003.