Sunday, August 21, 2011

Congratulations, music teacher/band director George Wenger

This weekend, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported that two area students, Andrew Fierova and Taylor Peterson, have been selected to attend Juilliard School, a private conservatory for the performing arts, in New York City.

Peterson, 18, will enter the freshman class in September, and Fierova, who turns 22 Monday, was admitted to the graduate school.

Applicants to this school have a six percent acceptance rate, so to have two students from the same area be accepted at the same time is rare. Rarer still, both had attended Dorman High School in Roebuck for at least part of their high school education. And rarer again, both were students of music instructor and band director George Wenger.

What sweet vindication of a long and storied career as a public school instructor, and what tremendous reward for mastery of craft, to have two students accepted at the same time to the nation's premier school for the performing arts.

Wenger, now retired from teaching in public schools, is band director at Converse College.

Mr. Wenger taught in the public schools for 44 years before his retirement in June 2010, after 6 years at Dawkins Middle School. He taught one year in Carlisle, PA, 19 years at Tennessee High School in Bristol, TN., and was the band director of Dorman High School and the District Six Band Coordinator for 18 years. Under his leadership, both Tennessee High School and Dorman High School were highly successful in state and national competitions. The concert bands had years of consecutive superior ratings. On several occasions, Mr. Wenger received the Citation of Excellence Award from the National Band Association. His latest award was presented on March 12, 2011 when he was inducted into the International School Bandmaster Fraternity Hall of Fame. He is currently the director of the Lawson Band at Converse College, and teaches some 40 private brass lessons each week.

In 1996 Mr. Wenger was chosen teacher of the year at Dorman High School and Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year. In 1997 he was chosen as an Honored Teacher by The Huntington Learning Center in recognition of dedication to the teaching profession and contributions that went beyond the call of duty. Through the years he has served as both a clinician and adjudicator of bands in South Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. He is a member of Phi Beta Mu, an honorary band directors association, the South Carolina Education Association, South Carolina Band Director’s Association, and the MENC.

Mr. Wenger was named the director of the Spartanburg Community Band in July of 2004 and retired in July 2011.

In its item on Wenger's students and their acceptance to Juilliard, the Herald-Journal wrote:

Both students said they are grateful for the instructors who have spent countless hours providing guidance and instruction. They said George Wenger, a retired band director at Dorman High School, gave them with private lessons and was instrumental in helping them achieve their goals.

“There is good instruction to be had if you want it,” Fierova said. “We got a lot of instruction outside of Spartanburg but also some good instruction here.”

Wenger said he is proud and flattered that his formal pupils were accepted to such a prestigious school.

“They were great students,” Wenger said. “I am very proud of them.”

Wenger said his advice to his former students would be to work hard and try out for all the professional organizations they can.

“They will be in a place where they can make a good living with their instruments, so I encourage them to do all they can,” he said.

To have prepared two students to gain acceptance to Juilliard in no small feat.

On its website, Juilliard said its mission “is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers and actors from around the world, so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens.”

More than 800 artists from 44 states and 46 foreign countries attend Juilliard.

Mr. Wenger, congratulations on a terrific achievement. You're a great example to educators across South Carolina and beyond.

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