Experienced music director fills in for Boitz

September 5, 2020 — by Andrew Li and Anjali Pai

Interim Orchestra Director Norman Dea conducts the 2015-16 Acalanes Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Photo cred: Norman Dea (from his YouTube channel)

Longtime music director Michael Boitz sent out an email to the music program on June 3 announcing that he would be on paternity leave for the first semester. 

In the email, Boitz also disclosed that Norman Dea will be filling his shoes as the orchestra director, citing Dea’s “legendary” work in the music education community as the reason he is so excited Dea can fill his shoes temporarily. Dea will be working alongside current percussion director Sean Clark, who is taking over Boitz’s role in helping lead the marching band.

Dea is a San Francisco State University graduate with degrees in music and music education. He taught at Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek for 25 years and at Acalanes High in Lafayette for 10 years before retiring in 2018. Two years later, Boitz asked him to cover his role for this semester. 

After an interview with the district office, Dea landed the job. He is still considered retired, as he is just helping out the music program for this semester. 

As Boitz’s colleague in music education for over 20 years, Dea has garnered great respect for his work and admires the “nationally renowned program” that Boitz has built at SHS.

Dea has previously interacted with the SHS and Redwood middle school bands as a music festival adjudicator when he judged orchestras at the CMEA (California Music Educators Association) orchestra festivals over the last few years. He also has given clinics and rehearsed with Saratoga High’s music groups. 

When the students first found out they would be having a new teacher this semester, they had mixed feelings.  

“At first I was nervous to have a new teacher, especially with the distance learning because it would be a very different experience for all of us,” sophomore Carolyna Sias said. 

On the other hand, sophomore Anusha Neerkundar said she felt excited to experience a new teaching style from someone else in the music department.

Once classes began, Dea has won over the hearts of many students. Sias said that Dea has been patient with students in the online setting and has made orchestra a great experience so far. 

“For the start of the semester, Mr. Dea has been a warm, welcoming face that I look forward to learning from in orchestra,” Neerkundar said. “He is always positive and connects to students through humor.” 

Throughout distance learning, Dea said that he aims to keep the two orchestras’ skills up and offer the instrumental students some relevant musical experiences in the virtual setting to the best of his ability. 

Dea said that currently in the Zoom sessions, students are doing pre-assessments where they are put into breakout rooms to perform a certain assignment. This way he gets an idea of the students’ levels of playing. 

In addition to these in-class assignments, Dea has been giving his students progress checks to maintain the orchestras virtually.

Dea said that despite the challenges of distance learning, he aims to help students advance their skills.

“My ultimate goal, especially with distance learning, is to maintain the two orchestras as best as I can, and to impart on the students that COVID-19 will be defeated and that live in-person rehearsals will be returning soon,” Dea said. “I am also a great admirer of the nationally renowned program that [Boitz] has built here at Saratoga. Happy and honored to be here!”


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Due to the lightning complex that occurred in the week of Aug.17, Santa Clara County is currently surrounded by wildfires, covering the city of Saratoga in heavy smoke. The air quality was in the range of 100 to 200 for the past five days, forcing SHS to close down. Photo by Selina Chen.


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