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updated: 2/7/2014 4:50 PM

Streamwood High music teacher finds students' inner talent

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  • Video: David Hain talks music

  • David Hain, orchestra and choir director at Streamwood High School, has a knack for finding the hidden musical talent in his students. He is the Daily Herald's top teacher of the month.

       David Hain, orchestra and choir director at Streamwood High School, has a knack for finding the hidden musical talent in his students. He is the Daily Herald's top teacher of the month.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • David Hain's quirky personality appeals to students and helps keep them engaged in class.

       David Hain's quirky personality appeals to students and helps keep them engaged in class.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • David Hain, director of choirs and orchestra at Streamwood High School, sports a "Doctor Who" hairstyle and bow tie.

       David Hain, director of choirs and orchestra at Streamwood High School, sports a "Doctor Who" hairstyle and bow tie.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • David Hain, orchestra/choir director at Streamwood High School, is the Daily Herald's top teacher of the month.

       David Hain, orchestra/choir director at Streamwood High School, is the Daily Herald's top teacher of the month.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • David Hain tries to instill an appreciation for music in his students so they can see its value in their everyday lives.

       David Hain tries to instill an appreciation for music in his students so they can see its value in their everyday lives.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

Sporting a "Doctor Who"-style hairdo and bow tie, David Hain exudes an energy that resonates with his students.

"The kids really dig it," explained the 34-year-old director of choirs and orchestra at Streamwood High School about his "Doctor Who" fascination.

A Golden Apple Award finalist, Hain teaches guitar theory, music theory, choir and orchestra at the school.

Known for his colorful personality, Hain has a knack for bringing out the singer/musician in everyone, students say.

"A lot of people spend some of their time in front of the bathroom mirror with a hairbrush singing," he said. "The legitimacy of personal music and personal art is extremely important."

It's that innate musical yearning that Hain hopes to nurture.

"He, like, motivates you all the time," said Streamwood High School junior Attlee White, 16, who is part of the school's chamber choir.

"It's just so nice to have someone that's willing to take (on) anybody," chimed in senior Ashley Ryan, 18.

Hain said he tries to make music education relevant to today's students, mixing in popular music and contemporary television shows, such as the musical comedy "Glee," with teaching a more traditional, classical musical repertoire.

" 'Glee' elevated the musicianship of ordinary people that usually doesn't exist in suburbia," he said. "I always try to balance music and art that is culturally relevant to them. That means a lot of work on my part because I have to sift through pop music and figure out ways to fit pop music into orchestra/choir music. Katy Perry is big right now. I've got several kids playing Katy Perry songs for an upcoming concert on their orchestra instruments. It's a learning experience for them."

Recognizing not everyone is destined for a musical career, Hain still tries to instill an appreciation for music in his students so they can see its value in their everyday lives.

He said he is working with a student who wants to play one of his mom's favorite songs on the violin for her birthday.

"It's not educationally important. It doesn't bump him up in the skill level. What it does do is legitimizes his music as a part of his life," Hain said. "The best classrooms keep students on the edge of rebellion. It's really easy to lose students, have them disengage."

Hain said he often encounters students who think of quitting music altogether because they don't see its relevance to their future careers, if their talents are mediocre.

"There's this really crazy idea that the only way to be a legitimate musician is to do it professionally, and get paid for it," Hain said. "The way to combat that is to give them the ability to take their instruments, their voice or their music theory understanding and apply it to something that would definitely be important to them when they graduate.

"Music has always been an art. The music they make is legitimate even if they are not professionals. Understanding of music is something that they should and can carry with them. That's the way to keep music relevant to kids in high school and beyond."

The son of folk musicians, Hain learned music appreciation at a young age and grew up singing the late-Pete Seeger's songs with his parents. He later became a member of the Elgin Children's Chorus and started singing choral music.

Hain said he was planning to become a doctor when he took his first music theory class in college. It changed his course forever, and he immediately switched his major.

Today, Hain is respected in his field and has been instrumental in growing Streamwood High School's choir program from 40 to 150 students. He also founded the school's vocal ensembles, the nonprofit Streamwood Choral Society, and Streamwood Community Choir that brings teachers, students and community members together to perform.

"It's really a wonderful, fertile ground," Hain said. "We pick one gigantic piece of canon music that will become our project for the second semester."

The roughly 120-person choir has performed Handel's "Messiah," Mozart's "Requiem," and this spring will tackle a multicultural piece called "Misa Criolla" by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez. The piece is in Spanish and will bring together the Streamwood High School choirs, orchestra, community choir and Latinos Unidos campus organization. The piece will be performed March 20 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 502 S. Park Blvd., Streamwood.

Hain said he tries to cater to the growing diversity at Streamwood High School -- the student population is 52 percent Latino -- and draw from students' cultural heritages.

"The piece was selected because it reflects the cultural diversity of our school," Hain said. "Also, our students are arranging the piece themselves. They are rewriting it for their own instruments and voices -- making it their own. We're hoping to continue our wonderful tradition of community activism."

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