Meet the Teacher: Dave Wulff - Music at Palm Crest Elementary School
The sound of applause… The next thing we hear is unison singing together in solfeggio – you know that complicated do re mi stuff. My wife and I were floored from the get go at this performance. Where were we you ask? We were attending one of Dave Wulff’s music class performances at Palm Crest Elementary School. This one specifically was for our daughter’s entire first grade class. My wife and I recalled back to our music conservatory days learning to sing using the Latin-based system of solfeggio – only we were college music majors, not first graders who barely knew how to tie their own shoes!
As a Palm Crest parent and La Canada Patch blogger I decided it might be interesting to find out more about this talented gentleman who was teaching our children such advanced concepts at an early age.
Dave Wulff, a native of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area has been teaching music at Palm Crest for the past ten years. He has resided in the Los Angeles area for 35 years and attended Cal State Los Angeles where he studied choral conducting and voice.
In addition to accordion, this man of many talents also plays the piano, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. He also serves as Music Director at La Canada Methodist church, a position he has held for nearly 20 years.
Many parents are aware of the music classes that our children attend at Palm Crest, however many are not aware of just exactly what goes on in Room 23, the music room. “My goal is to engage the children through music and long term to teach them intervals through the use of solfeggio” says Wulff. “I have a large tool shed to draw from” in referring to the many instruments in his room. I counted over 25 different instruments including accordion, piano, guitar, drum set, xylophones, guiro, shakers, wood blocks, djembe and more. “If I see that a child is not connecting with one instrument then I change my approach with another instrument.”.
Every year Mr. Wulff presents a performance for each grade level in March or April. The performances include singing, dance and musical instruments. For kindergarten through 4th grade, students are selected by lottery to perform the most coveted roles such as getting to play the drums and marimbas. Mr. Wulff makes it clear that he prefers the lottery system because it offers all the children a fair chance at performing rather than just picking the children who are most adept.
The children in grades five and six offer a more complex program. “We have the children break into groups and compose their own compositions” says Mr. Wulff. The students score the compositions for percussion instruments. The new works are then presented in concert to the entire school.
When asked what his favorite thing about teaching music at Palm Crest, Mr. Wulff responded that he really likes dealing with a variety of age groups. “I have to change the language I use for the younger children”. “There is always a point when you hit pay dirt and a child becomes engaged.”
I had to ask Mr. Wulff what his favorite music is to listen to and he responded that “I listen to all kinds of styles including accordion music, world music, jazz and rock n roll. Some of his most admired musicians are John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt (accordion), the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
In his spare time when he is not teaching our children music or leading his church choir, Mr. Wulff enjoys landscaping and traveling – particularly visiting the Mayan ruins.
As a parent and a professional percussionist I have to say that I don’t think it gets any better than this! Thank you so much Mr. Wulff and keep up the outstanding work that you do with our children! Thank you also to the La Canada Flintridge Educational Foundation for funding music 100% in our elementary schools!