Ray Huard …. Mission Vista High School music teacher Anne Fennell has scored a regional award for innovation from the California Music Educators Association.
“How cool is that,” asked Fennel, who has racked up numerous awards as creative arts chair and instrumental and music composition teacher at Mission Vista.
The CMEA award honors Fennell for showing “excellence in music education, including emerging and digital media” among music teachers in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
In 2016, Fennell was chosen as one of the top 10 finalists for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award and received the CMEA’s SBS Innovation in Music Education Award.
Fennell in 2015 won an “outstanding program” award from San Diego County’s Digital Media Arts Showcase for the music composition program she runs at Mission Vista. She also received a CMEA Illuminating Culture Award in 2013 and an association Southern Border Section Outstanding Music Educator Award in 2008.
“I feel honored to be recognized, but it always and has to be about the kids and what I can do better for them,” Fennell said. “I believe in lifelong music making and I believe students can be lifelong musicians. That’s the most important thing, finding joy in themselves and finding that joy in the music and sharing that joy with others.”
A classical flutist by training, Fennell said that she performs herself at weddings and other venues.
Vista Unified School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that Fennell “exemplifies educational excellence and innovation.”
“Her most recent recognition affirms her continued leadership and impact,” Vodicka said. “We are truly fortunate to have outstanding educators like Ms. Fennell who are dedicated to student success.”
Innovation is central to Fennell’s teaching style.
“Everything I teach at this school is outside the traditional band,” Fennell said.
For starters, the music composition courses she teaches at Mission Vista are far from typical in a high school curriculum.
“Music composition is never taught in high school. Usually, you wait until a junior in college,” Fennell said.
About 150 students take the composition courses each year, writing their own music.
“They read, write and compose at the same time,” she said.
Fennell also has gone beyond the typical high school band by forming a steel drum band, which performs at numerous venues throughout the region, with a trip to Hawaii planned for later this year.
About 130 students take steel drum every year.
Fennell said that she decided to teach steel drum because she thought it was a good first instrument for introduction to music and less intimidating that other instruments.
“We thought, there are too many kids who don’t choose music in middle school, and then they get to high school and they never take it,” Fennell said. “If you’ve never learned music, you can still walk up to the (steel drum) pan and find a melody on it.”
The philosophy that guides Fennell is that, “Anyone can learn music and anyone can create,” especially with the evolving technology of smart phones and computer tablets.
“That’s what’s neat about technology,” Fennell said. “You can create with a touch of a finger.”