Delany’s got the beat on music education, his alma mater

Alumni records indicate more than 100 graduates serving as music and band instructors living and working in Wisconsin. One in particular, Jon Delany, has a unique perspective – he knows the program inside and out. 

Delany now makes his living as director of instruments at Freedom High School, and prior to that, Marinette and Seymour schools, but the 1998 graduate also did double-duty fresh out of college. He served as an ad hoc faculty member in his alma mater’s music program, specifically as director of athletic bands until 2005. He also continues to serve each summer as a UW-Green Bay youth music camp instructor. His views on music, teaching and the University’s music program reflect those varied experiences. “In a specialized field like music, who you work with makes the difference,” Delany says. “At UW-Green Bay, students probably had a positive experience with the faculty at some point prior to enrolling. Either through a clinic at school, or through Honor’s Band or Choir or at summer camps. The faculty’s knowledge in their field combined with their ability to work with the student dictates how successful a student will be.

Jon Delany

Jon Delany

“I am proud to say that I respect all of my former professors and learned something from each and every one. I still call on my professors from time to time for advice, help, or assistance.” Delany has stayed motivated, and in turn motivates his own students, by what he terms “the power of education.” “Without the different and exciting experiences someone has during their years in school, there can be a lack of direction in a young person’s life, a lack of purpose. When you combine the power of education with a subject such as music, it makes it even more special… Music is the perfect combination of discipline, hard work, and the ‘artsy’ creative side we strive to pull out of our teenagers.” According to Delany, there are “millions of reasons” music is important. Here are his “big three”:

  1. Music is a form of mental gymnastics that strengthens the brain. For example, reading music is like doing a lot of simple graphing problems. A music staff has five horizontal lines, the X axis, and an invisible Y axis, that moves along in tempo or in real time. Not only does your brain have to interpret these problems in real time, but also has to send instructions to certain body parts, fingers, tongue, lungs, lips, so that the correct sounds are made at the appropriate time.
  2. Middle- and high-school students are incredibly self-conscious. Music offers them a chance to be creative and individualistic in a safe environment. (Students will forget a wrong note in a song, but will they forget a missed free throw against their fiercest rival?)
  3. Music offers a complete education on its own. A colleague of mine once gave a moving speech about the value of athletics to a school environment. He spoke about teamwork, discipline, socialization, and responsibility to something larger than the individual. These concepts aren’t easily realized in the typical academic classroom and his culminating point was that ‘athletics is the other half of education.’ While I agreed (I coach middle school volleyball in Freedom), I realized that we do the same things in my band program. Teamwork – how would we sound if the tubas were a measure behind? (All the band directors reading this know!) Discipline – without a constant focus and drive, our goals will not be realized. Because music is a part of the academic curriculum, one half of education, and teaches the same concepts as athletics, the other half of education, couldn’t an argument be made that music class is the only class that offers a complete education? (I’m a Delany, I like to dream!)”