Danielle Bruce – Richard L. Levin Orchestra Educator Award Recipient

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Danielle Bruce is the band and orchestra director at Hilltop middle school in Chula Vista, CA. Danielle started as a music assistant at a high school and soon realized that teaching was what she loved. She went back to school to and added a teaching credential to her music degrees.

Danielle began playing music when she was just seven. Starting with the violin, switching to clarinet, and then, in high school, moving on to percussion … she loved it. This is where Danielle realized that she wanted to study music in college and continue a musical career as an adult.

While initially narrowing her focus, percussion allowed her to gain a much wider array of experiences. Danielle said that percussion “… allowed me to join all types of different groups. I was in orchestra, jazz bands, marching band. With such a wide range of instruments I could do a lot of different groups … musical theater groups, pit orchestras … it eventually it ended up extending what I could do.”

When Danielle first started working at a school, teaching music, she realized this it was a great fit and is what she is supposed to be doing. She feels that teaching and learning music with others is what she is meant to do! Danielle says, “Teaching is not just a career to me, it’s really who I am, I am a teacher!”

Danielle was awarded the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) Richard L. Levin Orchestra Educator Award for here work in building music programs for middle and high schools over the past few years. She has taken an, almost not existent, orchestra program to one with two full-time teachers (including herself) in both Hilltop’s middle and high school!

She started with a very small group of guitar students at the high school. With the help of counselors and administrators she was able to get the right students in her classes and build the music program. In her second semester they were able to add band and in the second year she was able to add strings. At the same time, she was able to, with the help of administration and counselors, expand on the existing string program at the middle school and create a band. Now, due largely to Danielle’s passion and effort, there’s band and strings at both schools.

Danielle believes that the classes are more than about music, the kids are leaning valuable life skills. They learn organizational techniques, individual accountability and teamwork by having to put together everything they’ve learned with the whole class. Music student expand their cognitive skills because they are learning a new language and not only have to understand it, but also apply it with emotion. The skills that Danielle is imparting on these fortunate students is something that will set them up for a successful life.

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