Tonawanda News

May 17, 2014

NT music teacher honored by his peers

By Michael Regan michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Coming off a strong showing at the recent Kenny Awards for his theatrical successes, the North Tonawanda School District’s music department coordinator was recognized for his program yet again, this time for the chorus he leads. 

Dean Vallas, 43, who is director of choruses and also the school musical producer at the high school, received the BPO/Niagara County Music Educators Association Award for Excellence in Music Education during a ceremony at Kleinhan’s Music Hall this week, an honor bestowed by his peers for his involvement in the county’s music scene and his efforts in cultivating the strength of its programs.  

Vallas, who runs three choirs at the high school, said the popularity of his program is growing, with about 200 students already involved in the program. He is looking to add a fourth class next year. 

“The freshmen group coming up is so large that it would be over 100 students in the class,” he said. “There’s just an increase in the number of kids who want to sing.” 

Similar honors were handed out to four Erie County music educators, an award that began in 1994 in conjunction with the Buffalo Philharmonic. Niagara County launched its award in 2011. A former North Tonawanda music teacher, Norm Alexander, who also took home the honor before retiring, tendered the award to Vallas. 

Combined, Vallas served nine years as president and vice president of the association, a role he said he left to focus more on the North Tonawanda program. He has traveled the state as a guest conductor at schools and festivals throughout his career, leading student choral ensembles and the Buffalo Youth Choir. 

But despite his active involvement locally and across the state, he said much of his success could be attributed to his colleagues as well as the students of the district. 

“I think that we have some really outstanding teachers who get the students ready for high school and have done a really great job,” Vallas said. “NT has some fabulous music teachers and I get to reap the benefits. And the best kids in the school walk through my door everyday. I’m blessed and excited every day I get to spend with them. It’s a joy for me.” 

Superintendent Greg Woytila said the feeling Vallas has toward his students is mutual, calling his devotion “a way of life.” 

“When I visit the music suite at the high school, there is always a vibe of excitement and enthusiasm in this special hallway of the school,” he said. “The students work twice as hard for him because they respect and value having him as a teacher and friend. His dedication to them is shown in the countless productions and after-hour practices and shows that he organizes to help the students be the best they can be.

Vallas is a Hamburg native who attended The Crane School of Music in Potsdam. He received a master’s in music performance from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is married with two children. For more information about the school’s music department go to ntsings.com.