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January 18, 2013

Traverse City Central teacher named Music Educator of Year

TRAVERSE CITY — Students in Traverse City Central High School's Vocal Majority choir described director Wendee Wolf-Schlarf as picky, maybe even a perfectionist.

But Wolf-Schlarf's dedication and attention to detail brings out the best in them as performers, students said.

"She gets things done," sophomore Rachel Creamer said. "She is so good about making sure everyone puts in their 100 percent."

Other music teachers from across the state hold Wolf-Schlarf in similarly high regard, if honoring her with a Music Educator of the Year award through the Michigan Music Education Association is any indication.

Wolf-Schlarf receives the award today at a ceremony in Grand Rapids.

MMEA Executive Director Cory Micheel-Mays said the honor recognizes years of experience, dedication and service to music education.

The MMEA executive committee combs through nominations every year. Some years no one wins.

"If there is no one deserving, we don't give it out," Micheel-Mays said.

Wolf-Schlarf has taught music at various levels in Traverse City Area Public Schools for more than 25 years. She also serves as the district's music department coordinator.

Peers nominated her for the MMEA award and the group's executive committee unanimously agreed.

Wolf-Schlarf said she is honored to join prior honorees.

"It is an amazing group, and to think my name will be added to that list is something I never imagined," she said.

The award ceremony today is part of this weekend's Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids. Wolf-Schlarf will wear several hats at the conference in addition to award recipient.

She chairs the conference's planning committee, and she will conduct a Vocal Majority performance at Grand Rapids' JW Marriott Ballroom on Saturday.

Wolf-Schlarf presided over a practice of the Vocal Majority's performance before she left for Grand Rapids.

The all-female choir rehearsed a piece called "Those Who Wish To Sing Will Always Find a Song," as Wolf-Schlarf rhythmically waved her hands, directing both the singing and movement of her performers around a Central choir room.

"Did you still feel like you had more to go?" Wolf-Schlarf asked the students as they finished one rendition of the song. "Did you feel like, hold me back, hold me back?"

The group ran through the piece several more times. Wolf-Schlarf, now playing the role of chaperone, discussed snacks, hotel room keys and board games as she prepared the students for their weekend trip.

"Ladies, you are a wonderful group," she said. "I am so excited to share you with the rest of Michigan."

The performers were just as excited about their director and her award.

"For her, it's not just a job," Creamer said. "It's her personality. It's her life."

Wolf-Schlarf said she does have a life outside of school. But Creamer's words otherwise were accurate.

"I would take that as a compliment," Wolf-Schlarf said. "This is not work."

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