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Three exemplary music teachers retire
Three exemplary music teachers retire
Posted on 06/20/2019
Three exemplary music teachers retire

Together they have more than 100 years as educators in the Puyallup School District. When they reflect on teaching music to thousands of students through the years, one thing is clear: they are each passionate about educating students and helping them succeed.

Dan Davison, Ballou Junior High choir director; Dawn Harmon, Northwood Elementary general music teacher; and Paula Evjen, Brouillet Elementary general music teacher and fifth- and sixth-grade band director are retiring at the end of this school year. They are well-respected teachers in the district who have touched the lives of many students.

Every elementary student has music instruction twice a week. In the early years they learn how to keep a steady beat, rhythms, pitch and movement, to put music together, and how to work as a team. They learn to play the recorder in fourth grade, and can elect to join choir, band, or orchestra in fifth and sixth grades.

Currently, there are nearly 3,000 secondary students electing to participate in band, orchestra, and choir. Nearly 950 students in fifth and sixth grades travel to junior highs before school begins to learn band or orchestra.

A reflection on teaching

Dan Davison
Davison has spent his entire 40-year career as the choir director at Ballou Junior High. During those years he also taught speech, drama, and math. 

He knew he wanted to be a choir director while in high school. After graduating high school, he chose to attend Pacific Lutheran University because it was an exceptionally good place for choir. 

Dan DavisonDuring his career, Davison composed choral music and published it. He spoke at the American Choral Directors Association in Chicago on teaching music for boys whose voices are changing. Many students who had Davison as a teacher went on to study music, some returning as student teachers under him. Rogers choir director Justin Wisness was a student of Davison who returned to teach in Puyallup.

Davison will tell you he is an educator first and choir director second. “Building compassion and kindness are some of the most important things we teach,” he says. Greeting students warmly and expecting them to do the same is an example Davison sets for his class. “Something as simple as that can make an impression in a job interview. In my opinion, teachers should be more deliberate about those things,” he says.

He believes choices for elective classes allow students to find their interests and talents. “It is important to help students know who they are, and it’s our job to bring that out in them,” says Davison. He smiles as he says elective choices sometimes draw students away from his choir classes. “The classes have gotten smaller because kids are doing different things. The things they are pulled towards are wonderful. I’m for those things,” he says.

Building confidence in students is also important to Davison. Trying out for a choir solo is an example. “Most adults won’t sing by themselves in front of others. If a student tries out for solo five times, it’s a big confidence booster,” he says.

Davison and his wife Cathy, a science teacher at Kalles Junior High for 25 years, are both retiring. They plan to vacation, volunteer, and be of service to their family. Davison plans to be a guest speaker at Pacific Lutheran University.

 “If you have a student who has a gift for music, it’s our duty to bring that out.”
Dan Davison, Ballou Junior High Choir Director

Paula Evjen
Evjen knew she wanted to be a music teacher when she was in the fifth grade. She retires this year after teaching music for 27 years. 

Paula Evjen
Her teaching career began in the Auburn School District for one year before coming to Pope Elementary in Puyallup. Since then she has been a music teacher in many Puyallup elementary schools, at times serving three schools in a year.

She currently teaches K-1 and special education music at Brouillet Elementary, and recently accepted the opportunity to teach fifth- and sixth-grade orchestra and band at Stahl Junior High.

Evjen particularly enjoys teaching band and orchestra and sometimes plays the French horn along with students. “It’s been a fantastic experience, and I have loved it. The students really improve between the first and second year,” she says.

It’s all smiles as she remembers a fifth-grade student who once asked her, “Why do we have to have music?”  She responded, “You know what? Your whole world revolves around music. You just have to hear it. Why is it harder to do it in class than it is to go out there and do it?”

She says music provides students with a whole new universe. It combines science, math, foreign language, and physical education.

Evjen likes to remind her students that there is music everywhere in life.

“All you have to do is listen. We’ve just got to reach each child. Each child is unique, and each child can learn. Give them a new way of looking at music."
Paula Evjen, music teacher

Prior to her teaching career, Evjen was an anesthesia assistant for 11 years. She directed the choir and programs at church. While in junior and senior high she directed the children’s church choir and wrote and directed many programs. During her college years she sang with a Christian folk group and was a member of the university chorale and band.

As she retires, Evjen will continue playing the French horn and percussion in the Gateway Concert Band. She looks forward to more time to serve as worship minister for a women’s group.

Dawn Harmon
As an educator in the Puyallup School District for 35 years, Harmon taught at Pope, Riverside, and Northwood elementary schools. She taught second and third grades before moving to elementary music 20 years ago.

Dawn HarmonHarmon comes from a musical family where, “It’s not DO you want to play, it’s WHAT instrument do you want to play? Music starts in your home,” she says. Her daughter played saxophone in the Puyallup High School band, and Harmon plays the French horn in a band and sings in her church choir.  

One of her greatest accomplishments as a teacher is when students realize we are all musical people, and they don’t have to be a star to enjoy it. “You can just love music because it is music, and you don’t have to like my style of music. Children should have the opportunity to learn about different styles of music to find the ones they enjoy,” says Harmon.

As a music teacher, Harmon says her greatest challenge is to help all students find joy in music and ‘find their musical heart.’

She is creative in her teaching, and musical theatre is her passion. Her classroom is full of boxes of costumes. She says when students perform in musical theatre they learn drama, acting, movement, voice projection, and most of all it builds confidence. As the Northwood choral director, her students perform for the community including nursing homes, the Washington State Fair, and the community center.

Harmon says she is grateful to have been a music teacher in small schools for a number of years. “Consistency in a music teacher helps build a good program and develop rapport. The teacher can learn students’ names and get to know them.”

As she retires, Harmon will spend more time with her two grandchildren. She plans to travel to the New England states to see the autumn leaves. Her hobbies include quilting and painting. She would like to volunteer and read to children. “I will keep playing my instrument,” she adds.

“We are all born as musical people. It doesn’t matter where we live, or what our culture. It’s universal. We’re musical people.  When you’re around music, you just feel it.”
Dawn Harmon, music teacher

Nancy French