Music teacher Jeff Dupertuis — who’s taught band in elementary and junior high schools around the Davis district for 20 years — will set down his conductor’s baton as he retires at the end of the academic year.
DuPertuis grew up in Merced, performing in school bands, and then attended Fresno State, where he studied vocal music. He was so immersed in his studies that he “just about slept in the music library and listened to all the music I could.”
After he finished his bachelor’s degree, he earned a teaching credential in music.
“I wanted to get married and I had to tell the girl’s father what I was going to do for a living,” DuPertuis said with a twinkle in his eye.
He worked as a music teacher in various California districts for several years, then tried other lines of work. But when he heard in 1993 that the Davis school district was looking for a part-time music teacher at the elementary school level, he decided to return to the classroom.
The trombone is his main instrument, but as a band teacher DuPertuis has maintained proficiency with other brass instruments, reed instruments, drums, etc.
“I’ve tried to keep up competency in all the instruments I teach,” he said.
For several years, DuPertuis was the band director at Emerson Junior High, where his students included Chris Clark, now a professional saxophone player who recently released his first album as a jazz artist.
Other students learn to play for the joy of making music, and don’t plan on music as a career.
“Hopefully they continue to play as adults,” DuPertuis said. “The other thing you’re offering is the hope that they’ll become music patrons, which can be very rewarding.”
One of the advantages of teaching band at the junior high level was getting to see the students more often.
“You can divide your curriculum into learnable parts — tone production, for instance, or sight reading. And you can work on it with them every day,” he said.
At the elementary schools, the music teacher works with students one day a week, and that time can be interrupted by three-day weekends that involve Monday holidays, or parent/teacher conferences.
“But music is a continuum, and it is important wherever you are on that continuum,” DuPertuis said. “No one is born without some degree of musical skill. And nobody ever becomes a completely perfect musician. So when I approach music with a 10-year-old student, I look for ways to show them how important music can be for them.”
“I’ve worked in a number of different districts, and it is incredibly refreshing to work in Davis,” DuPertuis added. “It was in Davis that I found there was a value in the community for the teacher as an artist — not just a music artist, but as a teacher in the classroom assessing who is getting the information, and how the teacher can assess to see that students are getting it.
“I think that teaching is an art. And I didn’t find that until I got to Davis.”
DuPertuis added that he appreciates the value that the community has placed on music education.
“I think Davis parents say, ‘This is what I want for my kid’ — and they do it,” DuPertuis said. “Passing ballot measures, going to school board meetings.”
This year, DuPertuis is working part-time, teaching elementary students at Patwin, North Davis and Montgomery schools. He also works with the All-City Elementary Band, which has performed at other schools as well.
DuPertuis said he likes to help his music students learn that as band members “working together, we can achieve things that we cannot achieve alone. You learn to understand the responsibility of knowing that you have to play your part right for the group to sound good. And on the other side, you’re trusting that the others are going to learn their part to make you sound good.”
After he leads a successful performance, he likes take a minute to tell the students: “Do you see what we just did? When we started (at the beginning of the school year), you couldn’t play any of those pieces (that you just performed).”
When he retires, DuPertuis plans to travel.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter. And I want to see the East Coast in the fall. And Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.