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Cedar Rapids show choir director earns national award

Students nominated Kennedy High School music teacher for National Director of the Year

Members of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School’s “Happiness Inc.” hold hands and listen to their director storm Ziegler only moments before performing in 2010. (Spencer Willems/The Gazette)
Members of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School’s “Happiness Inc.” hold hands and listen to their director storm Ziegler only moments before performing in 2010. (Spencer Willems/The Gazette)

A  Cedar Rapids show choir director was moved to tears by his students when they nominated him to be National Director of the Year.

Kennedy High School music teacher Storm Ziegler is director of Happiness, Inc., Kennedy’s award-winning show choir. He received the award at the Show Choir Nationals competition in early April in Birmingham, Ala.

After his students submitted dozens of letters advocating for him to receive the honor, they gave him a book compiling what they wrote.

“I kind of sat in my hotel room that night and just kind of cried,” he said. “I feel like I have the best job in the world, getting to work with some of the most talented kids in the world.”

President of Show Choir Nationals Daryl Ussery said the committee had wanted to give Ziegler the award for years, but never received nomination letters from his students.

Choir directors were supposed to pass on the nomination form to their students. The committee figured out that Ziegler wasn’t passing it on.

So, this year, they went around him and sent the form through Kennedy’s Principal Jason Kline.

“It’s time he won it, because he’s thrown so many away,” Ussery said. “He’s just very humble, very don’t give me the attention.”

Thirteen different directors were in the running for the award this year. The Show Choir Nationals contest takes about 20 schools. This year, Happiness, Inc. was named third runner-up at the competition.

The committee winnowed down student’s letters to select the top director. The final letter in the pile was written by Kennedy student Danielle Maus.

“I would say Mr. Ziegler’s strength is teaching us how to be good people not only on stage but through life,” she wrote. “He is a leading example and constant reminder that there is more to life than winning and getting first place.”

Ziegler said that focus beyond the notes on the page is part of his teaching philosophy, whether it’s learning how to work together as a team or how to keep smiling and performing after a defeat.

“Music education, since it’s not a core subject is often not thought of as being important. But it’s extremely important,” he said. “I tell parents I don’t teach music, I teach life, and music is my tool.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@sourcemedia.net

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