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Desert Wind

Roger Wagner directs music at Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Kyle Norby

 

For Desert Wind Middle School music teacher Roger Wagner II, classes are about more than sick beats and woodwinds.

In addition to teaching kids how to play instruments and compose music using digital tools, Wagner II is also helping develop their social and life skills. For Wagner, who is also assistant marching band director at Maricopa High School, and his wife Michelle, music teacher at Legacy Traditional School, music is part of daily life.

Wagner received his bachelor’s degree in music from Grand Valley State University in Michigan and began teaching in Maricopa in 2013. At that time, Desert Winds had around 90 kids in band and orchestra. The school’s choir was defunct. Further, he learned many elementary schools in the Maricopa Unified School District didn’t have any music education.

“They could realistically could go K through 12 without having a music class,” Wagner said.

Wagner immediately set out to revamp the school’s music programming and restart its choir. He estimates more than 300 students now participate in the school’s band, orchestra and choir.

Working toward his master’s in music education from Arizona State University while teaching at Desert Wind, Wagner began developing his modern music class in 2014. The class gave him an opportunity to experiment with a new kind of music education for his students.

“When you get in your car and you flip on the radio, you’re probably not listening to concert band,” Wagner explained. “There’s a cognitive dissonance not only for me internally, but for the profession about what’s the future.”

Photo by Kyle Norby

Wagner happened to be in the right place at the right time and met the brand manager for Ableton Live, a company that produces tools for creating and arranging music digitally. At first just using Ableton’s software, which the company gave to him through an educational partnership, Wagner began creating a course that would help prepare students to create and play their own music.

“In music education, we call that [course] more of a music industry sort of thing,” Wagner said. “What we’re working towards is having almost a little boutique record label.”

At first Wagner didn’t have instruments for the class, so he began by making instruments from reclaimed materials, what the unpretentious teacher preferred to call “trash.” Eventually, he was able to secure a number of guitars from a tax credit and later ukuleles as well. After reducing the class size slightly, he had enough instruments for each student.

“I’ve seen him grow that program considerably since he’s been here with the integration of technology,” said Desert Wind Principal June Celaya. “I think some of that is because he uses some really cool assessment approaches so that kids can really evaluate their own personal growth with it and how they’re playing.”

Celaya noted Wagner has also been very successful in engaging the community by partnering with ASU, CenturyLink and others. He also worked to integrate school music more deeply into Maricopa, helping make the band a fixture at parades and other public events.

Bella Ebner. Photo by Kyle Norby

While his integration of technology and contemporary music have done much to help him build his school’s music programing, his passion and humor are still key to his success as a teacher and music director.

“It’s really cool because he’ll use fun analogies when teaching us about intonation and notes and stuff like that,” said eighth grader Bella Ebner, who is also president of the school’s Band Club. “He just likes to make sure that we’re all on the same page and that we’re all getting better together.”


This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby
Photo by Kyle Norby

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Abcdee Herrera of Maricopa Wells joins her classmates during the promotion ceremony Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Eight graders from Maricopa Unified School District’s two middle schools, Desert Wind and Maricopa Wells, came together Tuesday to mark the end of junior high and their promotion to high school. It was a long day for the students, who spent the morning rehearsing on the Maricopa High School football field. But DWMS’s planned eighth grade trip to Wet ‘n’ Wild is Wednesday. The last day of school is Friday.

Maricopa Wells football Panthers will team up with Desert Wind for a food-donation car wash to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa. Submitted photo

Middle school athletes will wash cars for free next week to benefit a good cause.

High priority items:

  • Powdered baby formula (large cans)
  • Canned meat (tuna, ham, turkey, etc.)
  • Hot or cold healthy cereal
  • Meals in a tin (ex. Dinty Moore)
  • Canned vegetables and fruit
  • Wholegrain pasta and rice
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned and dry soup

The Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind football teams will hold a car wash Jan. 13 at Auto Zone from 1 to 4 p.m. Auto Zone is located at 20886 N. John Wayne Parkway.

In lieu of payment, the players are accepting non-perishable food donations for F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, said Maricopa Wells football coach Jonathan Clark.

“We just feel it’s important to do for others and not expect something in return,” Clark said. “I tell the boys all the time that true leaders must be willing to serve first.”

Clark also said the timing of the fundraiser benefits the food bank this time of year, as it often experiences a lull in donations after the holiday season.

It’s the second year the Maricopa Wells team has organized the donation drive car wash. This year the Desert Wind Tigers will partner with the Panthers on the giving.

In 2017, the team collected 680 pounds of food, with a new goal of raising 1,000 pounds next week.

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The Sura team from Maricopa Wells earned second place in the state with their Future City idea. Submitted photo

Students from Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools 20+1 programs took home 16 awards at the Arizona Regional Future City competition at ASU on Saturday.  Teams from Maricopa Unified School District took second and third place.

The competition gave out a total of 34 student awards, with 16 of those going to MUSD students.

Maricopa Wells Middle School students earned a total of 12 awards. Team Sura finished second place in the state.
Awards also went to teams Purnea, Tiago, Novara, Liyong Kongjian and Schone Stadt.

Robyn Rice, one of the teachers in the 20+1 class at MWMS, said, “I was repeatedly stopped by engineers and Future City directors who told me how impressed they were with our students. The co-director of Future City Arizona said that our students were a ‘class act’ and every one of them impressed him with their intelligence and kindness. I am so proud to be their teacher and watch their success.”

Joseph Szoltysik, one of the teachers in the MWMS 20+1 class, said, “It’s always rewarding to watch your students succeed at something they’ve worked so hard to attain.  I couldn’t be more proud of all MWMS students.”

Desert Wind Middle School students earned a total of four awards. Team Jakarta finished in third place in the state of Arizona. The team of La Perla Renacida also earned an award.

Jennifer Szoltysik, one of the teachers in the 20+1 class at DWMS said, “We are very proud of all of the Future Cities participants from Desert Wind Middle School. They worked extremely hard over the last four months and represented both the school and the district well. It’s always exciting as a teacher to see the students’ work showcased at such a prestigious event.”

Eight teams from Maricopa Wells Middle School and eight teams from Desert Wind Middle School traveled to ASU to compete in the Arizona Regional Future City competition. The teams had to complete a virtual computer model of a city, write a research essay around this year’s theme of Public Spaces, build a scaled model of their city, and create a 5-7 minute presentation about their city. The teams competed at the school level to earn their place in the top 8 that advanced to the state competition at ASU.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Winning Teams
Sura
Presenters: Alyson Bowen, Emma Schrader, Zeah Zimpleman
Project Manager: Kaden Rogers, Alternate: Arianna Vargas
Awards:
2nd Place in Arizona
Innovative Use of Infrastructure

Purnea
Presenters: Anabelle Dayley, Megan Hahn, Erin Hildick
Project Manager: Nicholas Perez, Alternate: Shyanne Price
Awards:
Best Computer Model
Best Team Effort
Walton Sustainable Community Award
Excellence in the Use of Building Materials

Tiago
Presenters: Alondra Garfias, Maverick Miller, Joseline Nowell
Project Manager: Alexander Grace, Alternate: Trenton Redwanc
Awards:
Walton Sustainable Community Award
Architectural Excellence Award

Schone Stadt
Presenters: Brenna Fitzpatrick, Victoria Richardson, Morgan Witte
Project Manager: Charlee Hyde, Alternate: Robert Hahn
Awards:
Best Scaled Model
Rich Goewey Community Awareness

Novara
Presenters: Joseph Abel, Joshua Kulinowski, Rylee Tarcola
Project Manager: Taryn Meyers, Alternate: Savannah Wade
Award:
Best Team Presentation

Liyong Kongjian
Presenters: Elena Antunez, Rori Gosiak, Bailey Rigby
Project Manager: Dylan Hahn, Alternate: James Couts
Award:
Award of Distinction

Desert Wind Middle School Winning Teams
Jakarta
Presenters: Isabella Ebner, Kian Pack, Jaden Pyle
Project Manager: Blake Fullmer, Alternate: Emmy Balgaard
Awards:
3rd Place in Arizona
Best Multimodal Transportation System
Walton Sustainable Community Award

La Perla Renacida
Presenters: Kendahl Belmore, Kylie Myers, Janie Pyle
Project Manager: Ryan Nguyen, Alternate: Nathan Shearer
Award:
Best Use of Water and Environmental Resources.