Mar 6, 2007    #032
Contact: Amanda Lepper
(816) 235-1502

UMKC alumna Dee Hansen honored for impact on Kansas' music education

In the midst of hotly contested debates about the state’s science curriculum and increasing pressures to meet math and reading standards, Dee Hansen took a stand to ensure fine arts education didn’t fall by the wayside. As a result of her efforts to organize arts advocates in Kansas, the Kansas State Board of Education established for the first time in 2002 required fine arts programs for kindergarten through eighth grade and mandated a fine arts credit as a high school graduation requirement.

In recognition of the significant contributions she’s made to the field of music education, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music has named Hansen to receive its 2006-07 Alumni Achievement Award. She will accept the award at the Alumni Association’s dinner and program, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 19, 2007, in the Swinney Recreation Center, 5030 Holmes St., on the UMKC campus.

Every year, one alumnus from each of the university’s 12 academic units is selected to receive the Alumni Achievement Award for his or her notable professional success and outstanding community service. Hansen earned a doctorate of musical arts from UMKC in 1991 to launch a renowned career as a fine arts advocate.

“Dee has served in leadership positions in every arts organization in Kansas and is looked to as the expert across the state,” said John Buehler, director of the division of fine and performing arts at Baker University, where Hansen taught from 2002 to 2006.

A passion for music and art comes naturally to Hansen, who said it has literally been a part of her life since birth. Born and raised in Shawnee Mission, Kan., Hansen’s childhood home was nearly bursting at the seams with creativity. When her physician father returned from house calls, he’d unwind by playing the family’s organ for an hour. Hansen’s brothers each played the piano, banjo and guitar, and her mother would host weekly sculpting lessons in the backyard.

“I’ve had lessons in singing, piano, ballet, guitar, clarinet and flute,” she said. “I went to the Nelson for art lessons and puppetry and just had arts in my life from the very beginning.”

Just as music and art shaped Hansen’s childhood, so too has it transformed the countless students who comprise her long career. While raising a family in Olathe, Hansen taught private lessons and directed church choirs. After shipping her youngest child off to first grade, Hansen earned her doctorate at UMKC while serving as the director of education for the Kansas City Chapter of Young Audiences, a nonprofit organization that provides arts education to children.

“That was just a wonderful moment in my life to understand the impact of the arts in the educational process,” she said. “The kids learned so many lessons that were beyond just arts. They learned the social and behavioral skills that were critical for them as lifelong learners, and observing them made me such an advocate for the arts in schools.”

Hansen’s advocacy was never more apparent than during her years of service as a fine arts specialist for the Kansas State Department of Education. She, and many other educators, feared the extinction of fine arts programs in the face of increased pressure to meet national standards in reading and math.

“Even science and social studies don’t really get the attention they used to, and the arts are way down on the list,” she said. “One of the things that I felt was very important at that point in time was to say, ‘We’re going to have to make sure that the arts are required.’”

And Hansen said just that every year for seven years as she patiently organized groups of arts education leaders and community members to testify before the state board of education. Finally, in 2002, their voices were heard. When the board revised the state’s graduation requirements, fine arts courses were included for the first time. In addition, art and music classes became a required component of kindergarten through eighth-grade curriculum. In recognition of her efforts, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius named Hansen the Kansas Arts Commission Arts Advocate of the Year in June, 2006.

Confident fine arts would retain their place in the classroom, Hansen has since returned to teaching. She currently trains the music educators of tomorrow as the Chair of Graduate Studies in Music Education at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in Connecticut. There, she attempts to impress upon her students music’s crucial role in education and its impact on society – lessons she said she learned not so long ago at UMKC.

“I learned it was not memorizing things out of a book; it was really understanding the human element behind what the making of music is all about,” she said. “That’s the most important thing I teach my students – to look beyond the surface of the music and the artist and to really understand how and why something happens and what kind of impact it has on us as human beings.”

UMKC is one of four University of Missouri campuses. It is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health and life sciences, and urban affairs.


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