Dan Sedgwick is only in his fifth year of teaching, but that didn’t stop 40 music educators from singling him out as the North Coast’s teacher of the year. Sedgwick, who heads Del Norte High School’s music and choir program, received the award from the California Music Education Association’s North Coast section, which includes K-12 schools in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
Dan Sedgwick directs choir students during a class last week at Del Norte High School. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
“I have no idea why they voted for me,” Sedgwick said. “I’m very honored.”
Sedgwick, originally from Santa Barbara, inherited his love of music from his grandfather. When his grandfather began teaching him at age 9, Sedgwick wanted to play saxophone. But his grandfather had other ideas.
“He told me to play clarinet because the saxophone wouldn’t get you as far,” Sedgwick said. “He was right.”
Sedgwick would go on to offer music lessons during his senior year in high school before earning a teaching credential from Humboldt State University and a master’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of Oregon.
“I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t good at math and did not mind practicing,” Sedgwick said. “During the first couple of weeks in high school I loved it so much (I decided) I want to do this. I didn’t know if that meant teaching or playing professionally.”
Clarinet is his primary instrument, but Sedgwick said he also plays saxophone and has had to learn many other instruments to become a credentialed teacher.
Sedgwick came to Del Norte High School when former band director Christie Lynn Rust retired in 2008, said Principal Coleen Parker. Band has always been a popular program at the high school, she said. It’s also rare for a band director to also be a choir director.
“He’s kept a very intensive program,” Parker said. “To be able to capture somebody that can do both (band and choir) and then to continue the program and expand it with the marching band has been fantastic.”
Parker added that Sedgwick also has time for his students outside of class, including holding Wii (video game) competitions and providing other after-school activities.
“He brings a sense of belonging,” she said. “The kids really enjoy him and want to be around him. They want to work with him. He’s always a very positive person so I just guess that radiates out.”
Sedgwick said he is impressed by the support he gets from the district and community. One thing he’d like to see the high school accomplish in the next decade or so, however, is to build an auditorium.
“It would benefit many people,” Sedgwick said, adding that there are plans for an auditorium. “When we do have a concert we have to go to other places.”
Sedgwick said he’d like for his students to continue tackling advanced pieces.
“Every year I dig for great pieces,” he said. “It’s fun when the choir can pull together an 11-part piece. I have fun finding pieces that inspire them. I guess I don’t want anything different in that regard.”
Sedgwick will be recognized as the California Music Education Association’s North Coast section teacher of the year at a state music conference next Thursday.