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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Dennis Giotta

Dennis Giotta

Music Teacher
Southeast Local School District
Apple Creek, Ohio

Music Teacher Dennis Giotta at Southeast Local School District established a music technology class to equip students with contemporary skills while nurturing their passion for music. The goal of the class is to prepare students not just for today, but to instill a love for lifelong musical exploration in an ever-changing world “Recognizing the evolving landscape of the music industry, I aimed to empower students with technological proficiency, enabling them to create, produce and innovate within diverse musical realms,” he says. “This class is a bridge between traditional musical education and modern tools, fostering creativity, technical aptitude and a deeper understanding of music’s ever-expanding possibilities.”

Giotta knows that exposure to a broad range of musical styles cultivates not only technical proficiency but also enriches students’ cultural appreciation, empathy and connection to the broader human experience. “That’s why we frequently bring in guest clinicians and guest artists. Learning to play alongside accomplished musicians provides our students with a unique, firsthand insight into professional artistry and the opportunity to witness the pinnacle of musical achievement,” he says. “Guest clinicians help to broaden students’ experiences, and they are a reminder that there is not only one way to teach music.”

Another popular class that Giotta teaches is songwriting, which came out of his interest in finding more opportunities for all students to receive a music education — not just those in band, chorus or orchestra. “This class focused on vernacular music that students would write and perform by themselves on ukulele or piano. The students would also perform their songs at a local coffee shop at the end of the year,” Giotta says.

The songwriting class evolved into rock band after a few years so students could add some more popular instruments and have more collaborative experiences. “Students still write their own music and perform in authentic settings. They also get to perform covers of their favorite songs,” he says.

Giotta strives to create a music curriculum that is dynamic and relevant. He seeks feedback from students, colleagues and the community, as he researches the changing landscape of music throughout the world. “Our music program is a vibrant, collaborative community where passion and creativity thrive. This collaborative approach ensures that our program continually evolves within an environment of constant refinement and adaptation,” he says.