In 1991, a choir director named Daniel Gregerman brought vocal jazz to Niles North High School and under his direction, the program grew and flourished. The vocal jazz program recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, with many alumni reuniting at the school to take part in a concert. On January 8 through 12, 2014, Niles North Choral Director Daniel Gregerman will be presented with the 2014 John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year award. This honor is presented by the Berklee College of Music in Boston, with the Jazz Education Network (JEN). The award is named after legendary jazz educator John LaPorta who served as a distinguished professor at Berklee for more than three decades prior to his passing in 2004 and played a pivotal role in the earliest stage of formalized jazz education. The award recognizes an outstanding elementary, middle or high school educator with a focus on jazz education, who represents the highest standards of teaching. Gregerman is the first vocal jazz educator to win, along with being the first public school teacher to win this award.
The award includes a monetary gift, an online class at the Berklee College of Music, a guest artist visit from Berklee to work with his groups, and classroom materials from the Berklee Jazz Press.
District 219 Director of Fine Arts Jason Brown said, “Dan’s 23 years of hard work and dedication to the vocal music program at Niles North has led to this national honor. An award of this magnitude is a major career accomplishment and Dan truly deserves this recognition. He is a passionate music educator who strives to provide the best educational opportunities to his students on a daily basis.”
One of Gregerman’s students, Julia Thummel said, “I for one have had an exceptional experience through the vocal jazz program at Niles North.” She related an example of Gregerman’s teaching methods. “I remember my freshman year the group sang ‘Bailando’ by Greg Jasperse, and in the middle of rehearsal, Mr. Gregerman had us all stand in a circle in the center of the choir room and start stomping to the beat of the song. We all thought it was silly at first, but after a while we found we had not only internalized the complicated Latin rhythm, but were genuinely enjoying ourselves and the music.”
Thummel’s fellow section leader in Niles North’s top vocal jazz ensemble, Take One, Jazib Gohar, said, “Mr. Gregerman is one of those rare kind of teachers who takes the time to make sure that all of his students are performing to the best of their ability, but he also cares so deeply for them as well. Through my experience in his vocal jazz group, Take One, Mr. Gregerman has grown to be a father figure to me, as he’s inspired me to become more confident as a musician and a person.”
Gregerman directs five concert choirs, teaches piano class, and directs the top vocal jazz ensemble. His groups have earned national recognition, performing at regional and national conferences, winning multiple Down Beat awards, and performing in festivals both nationally and internationally. Gregerman’s ensembles have shared the stage with names such as Diane Schuur, The New York Voices, The Real Group, Take Six and Janis Segal of The Manhattan Transfer. He is a founding member of JEN and currently serves as the Conference Office Coordinator for the annual JEN Conference. He has held positions as State and District Chairman of Vocal Jazz for the Illinois Music Educators Association. He has a Bachelor of Music Education from Northwestern University and a Master of Music Degree with an emphasis in Choral conducting and Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University.
“I’m very humbled and honored by the award,” said Gregerman. “It’s an acknowledgement of not just my work, but the hard work of the students and ensembles, as well as the commitment of the school, the administration and the community. I would not be able to do what I do without the support and resources of District 219. “