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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Aurelia native an influential music educator

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dan Peterson stands at the podium, ready to direct his Truman State University band members. Photo submitted.
With both the Aurelia and Cherokee Washington High School Jazz Bands again experiencing successful seasons, which will culminate for both with their return to the State Jazz Championships in Des Moines on April 12, it is timely to share the story of an area native who was instrumental (pardon the pun) in establishing the high school jazz band program in the state of Iowa.

Dan Peterson, the son of Vernon and the late Mabel Peterson, is a 1962 graduate of Aurelia High School. While in school, he played the drums in the concert band and dance band, and also drummed with the rock 'n' roll group Robby Rhines and the Rogues, who recorded the classic instrumenal "Port Zibee Part II" on Applause Records.

Peterson went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of South Dakota and an graduate degree from Drake University, and taught music in the public schools in Iowa for 13 years, beginning with a one year stint in Northwest Iowa at Havelock-Plover.

During the one year that Peterson taught at H-P, the first jazz band was formed, and the ensemble performed at several local events.

Peterson then moved to North Polk schools, and he also started a jazz band and a jazz choir there. These groups were the main part of the fund-raising variety show that was produced at the North Polk school each year, and the jazz band also participated in numerous events in the school and community.

In 1968, Peterson moved to Knoxville, Iowa, where he started his third high school jazz band. This band traveled to the first SCIBA-Miller Music Co. jazz festival at North High School in Des Moines in 1969, and in succeeding years, the jazz band from Knoxville became a regular on the competing jazz band circuit, developing into a trophy winning band in 1972.

In 1974, Peterson became the band director at West Des Moines Valley High School, where he changed the "show band" of the previous director into a Jazz Band, which immediately became competitive on the jazz competition scene. The band remained active as a competition band, as a performer in the community, and served as the "house band" for the State Wrestling Tournament and the Girls' State Basketball Tournament televised games on Friday and Saturday night of Championship Week.

Peterson, Larry Green, the director at Des Moines Roosevelt High School, and Ron Battani, director at Hoover High School in Des Moines, began the Iowa Jazz Championships in 1976, and the Valley Bands, under Dan Peterson's direction, finished third in the 1976 Championships and second in the 1977 and 1978 Championships. The Iowa Jazz Championships have since that time become the largest high school jazz competition in the country, and are the envy of states around the nation.

Peterson left Iowa in 1978 to become a college band director at Northeast Missouri State in Kirksville, Missouri, and in 1995, he was named as a charter member of the Iowa Jazz Education Hall of Fame.

Today, Northeast Missouri State has become Truman State University, and Peterson is still there as the Director of Bands. The marching band at Northeast is among the finest in the nation, and annually performs at NFL football games, as well as in exhibition at regional high school festivals in the Midwest.

His clinic textbook "Championship Drill Design" was used for more than 15 years for the "Championship Drill Design" clinics that were held during the 80's and 90's throughout the nation, with over 1500 band directors attending. During this time, Peterson was also a consultant for the Pyware Drill Design software program, which is now the most widely-used Computer Drill Design program used for writing marching band shows.

The Truman State University Wind Symphony Band, under the baton of Peterson, has performed at two national College Band Directors Association Conferences, one national MENC Conference, and three regional CBDNA Conferences. They have also performed for the Missouri Music Educators Association meetings on nine occasions, and for Iowa Bandmasters Associations conference on two occasions.

Peterson has served as a band and orchestra clinician for the Yamaha Band Instrument company of America, and he continues to write marching band shows for bands across the country, from North Carolina to California. He also continues to adjudicate at the Iowa Jazz Championships, as well as at other jazz events throughout the Midwest.

Peterson has many fond memories of his fellow band members and their musical activities at Aurelia High School, and he credits his musical achievements to his High School band director, the late Don Jackson.

Peterson says, "I can easily say that the instruction and inspiration I received from Don Jackson has given me the direction and quest for excellence throughout my life."

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