WOODSTOCK – Paul Rausch has a theory.
In general, Rausch said, educators have taken this understandable yet narrow view: If kids are struggling at math, teach them more math.
Rausch, Woodstock High School’s Fine Arts division chairman and music teacher, would like to see students build skills in other areas – say, music – that can be applied to the core subjects.
Skills such as problem solving, working together and concentration are taught daily during well-structured music rehearsals, Rausch said. He thinks those apply directly to other class work, and to a student’s ability to secure and succeed in a future job.
“When you’re working at problem-solving skills, you don’t have to be working on that area to improve your problem solving,” Rausch said.
Rausch’s ideas about music’s role in reforming education, coupled with his 29 years of dedication to music at Woodstock High School, recently earned him the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award. The award is given biennially to 50 music educators for their accomplishments in public schools across the country.
Rausch, who hadn’t heard of the award before Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski nominated him, now gets an all-expenses-paid trip to New Haven, Conn., to attend Yale’s symposium on Music in Schools in early June.
“Now that I’ve learned more about it, it’s a really exciting award,” Rausch said. “It’s just nice to be recognized for something like that, and for folks to see some of the great things that are going on here with our students.”
Nominees had to submit an essay on the role of music in school reform. Winners will be honored at the awards dinner June 8.
Rausch, who was selected from a pool of 300 applicants from 45 states, teaches six curricular music classes that meet during the day at Woodstock High School, and two others that meet after school.
“I’ve never seen someone that can consistently develop the kind of talent that he does year after year after year,” Wrzeski said.
In addition to his success developing competitive choral groups, Rausch said he wants to get everyone involved in music. He said it’s discouraging to hear about people who’ve been turned away because they didn’t have a natural ability.
“What would you say to the math teacher who says that a kid can’t add or subtract, so I don’t want them in my math class,” he said. “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Rausch also works in a broader role as the district’s music curriculum area specialist. With his help, the district applied for and received a grant to start an orchestra program, which he said is the first in the county in decades.
He encourages all students to get involved in music in some capacity, even if it isn’t in their future.
“Do you ever hear of anyone saying, ‘Boy, I wish I wouldn’t have taken piano lessons’?” he said. “No, it’s, ‘Boy, I wish I wouldn’t have ever stopped.’”