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Middle school band director teaches students more than just music

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – WISH-TV is proud to honor some of central Indiana’s most outstanding teachers with our Golden Apple Award.

It comes with a check for $500, a trophy and a big surprise.

December’s big winner is Daniel Dorsett. Dorsett is the band director at Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis. Dorsett is helping teach so much more than just music.

“He is welcoming and understanding,” said Sweet Night, an eighth-grade student. “He’s passionate about what he teaches.”

“He makes it so we all have a chance to be able to learn and appreciate music more,” said Oliver Martinez, an eighth-grade student who plays trombone.

“It makes me feel helped and loved by him because he actually like, pays attention,” said Gavin Travis, a seventh-grade student.

Dorsett pays attention to the details. He is a conductor of music and life.

“I mean, he knew I had never touched an instrument in my life and he was like ‘No, this is completely fine. This is what band is for,”‘ said Sweet.

Dorsett not only teaches his students how to play instruments, but how to help – wherever there’s a need.

“I walked into his classroom and he was teaching his students algebra equations,” said Ella Hereth. She teaches algebra and said Dorsett helps fill the gaps in education.

“He is band director, he loves music and wants the kids to love music because he does,” said Hereth. “But I think ultimately, he does all of that because he cares about the kids as people and he just really wants them to have a full life and a life enriched with arts and get to experience every joy that he has in life, in their life, too.”

Dorsett finds a melody in life, even when playing music wasn’t allowed in class during the pandemic. Somehow, he sparked a song in his students’ hearts.

“When I say great school person, of course, he is our band director, but he also does after-school activities after school clubs. He helps us with the master schedule every year and even tutors students in math,” said Principal Jim Larkin.

Larkin has always known Dorsett is special, ever since the teacher was a high school student in Indianapolis Public Schools.

“I am not too surprised this is where we are,” said Larkin.

“He gives everyone a fair chance and I think that is the biggest thing in being a teacher, is getting all of your students involved… I feel like he really deserves this award,” said Martinez.

So WISH-TV’s Hanna Mordoh went to surprise him.

“Thank you very much,” said Dorsett after he received the golden trophy and a $500 check from Golden Apple sponsor partner Bailey and Wood Mortgage Lender. “I really appreciate it, but it really is the students. Especially the ones that work really hard and play. We had our concert last week, so it is very exciting to hear them play and be back in the concert setting.”

“Congratulations we have a trophy for you,” said Bailey Wood. “Thank you for all you do for your students. We were really honored to hear your story and what you do for your students and the school here. So, just keep doing what you are doing and for an extra gift we also have a $500 check for you – just to say thanks for what you do.”

Dorsett seemed truly humble as he watched a “thank you” video from his students and fellow staff. He is hopeful for the future.

“Continue to make great music, but a lot of the students didn’t say much about music in the video – a lot of it is about inclusion and being part of a group and being a part of a team and just to continue to grow that group and that team,” said Dorsett.

Another reason Dorsett is so deserving of this award is that he takes extra time to run a band club and brings alumni students back from high school to help out. He also raises money for new instruments on his Donors Choose website, therefore this $500 will be put to good use.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.