Watching Yellow Medicine East Choir Instructor Jeff Iverson during a concert or in the classroom gives an individual the feeling that one of these days the teacher is going to stand, raise his conductor's baton, and quite suddenly, explode. Alright, combustion might be a tad superfluous... but it does illustrate the sort of overflowing passion and enthusiasm for music, theater and his students that will garner the eighth year teacher the American Choir Directors Association's (ACDA) prestigious Outstanding Young Choral Director of the Year Award.
Watching Yellow Medicine East Choir Instructor Jeff Iverson during a concert or in the classroom gives an individual the feeling that one of these days the teacher is going to stand, raise his conductor's baton, and quite suddenly, explode. Alright, combustion might be a tad superfluous... but it does illustrate the sort of overflowing passion and enthusiasm for music, theater and his students that has garnered the eighth year teacher the American Choir Directors Association's (ACDA) prestigious Outstanding Young Choral Director of the Year Award. "It's an honor to receive this award. It really is due to the hard work of the current students and those who I have taught in the past. Without them, I would not be the educator I am today," said Iverson. "Last year a parent informed me that she was nominating me for this award. I didn't think anything of it ... as I'm sort of the small fish in the big pond." Such notable state-wide recognition might come as a surprise to Iverson, but not to anyone else familiar with the program that has grown by a multiple of three in overall student participation and exponentially in terms of quality. "Jeff stepped into a vocal program that was down in both numbers and level of musicianship," said band teacher Nicole Boelter, in one of the several recommendation letters composed by parents, students, coworkers and administration on his behalf. "Within the first three years he was able to not only double membership but also bring the students to all superior ratings at large group contests. He more than tripled the solo ensemble contest participation and, once again, these entries received high performance marks." Iverson's impact begins at YME but extends far beyond the school yard. Since his arrival, the instructor has started a jazz and chamber choir that performs regularly in the community; served as a staff member for the Minnesota Ambassador of Music Choir, through which he has hosted students on European trips on four occasions; and was also instrumental in founding the Granite Falls Area Community Theater (GFACT), where he has served as director of all of the organization's productions since its inception in 2008. Also of note is that Iverson teaches Knowledge Bowl, participates in the YME chapter of Education Minnesota, provides private piano lessons and conducts the Granite Falls United Church of Christ adult choir. Though not confirmed, it is believed that he finds time to sleep. Asked what has driven the success of YME's musical program, Iverson is quick to pass the credit to others. Supportive parents, Friends of Music (FOM) boosters and a community that turns out again and again for the various productions all drew praise––but above all else, he said it is due to the students. "I have high standards and expect a lot of them," he said. "They come through my door every day, ready to sing and meet those standards. They work hard for every performance, and I truly appreciate them." The appreciation is reciprocated with said effort and when, time and again, former students return to take part in school choir performances or just stop by and sing with a regularly scheduled class. Comments like those of current students Chris Jensen and Azalia Magana demonstrate why the draw of Iverson's environment remains long after they've gone. Both seniors have been students of Iverson since his arrival. "I can't think of anyone else who deserves [the award] more," said Jensen. "I've had Mr. Iverson for six years in class, and I've learned more than I could possibly imagine. I never was much of a music kid when I was young, but I most certainly am now, and it's all thanks to Mr. Iverson." As for Magana, the impact of the choir classes extends well beyond music. "Not only does he teach us about music, but he teaches us about life lessons, and he helps us to grow," she said. Iverson is an active member of MMEA (Minnesota Music Educators Association) and ACDA (American Choral Directors Association). In the summer of 2012, he served as a bass section leader for the MMEA All-State Men's Choir. His students have performed in state, regional, and national ACDA honor choirs. Iverson will be presented his award in concert with the annual ACDA conference during a ceremony to be held Saturday, November 17. That, of course, assumes he's still in one piece.