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Finale: Northside's Daane retires
Northside Elementary music teacher John Daane gestures to the fifth grade chorus at the end of their performance during an assembly Friday morning marking the end of the school year. Daane is retiring after 47 years of teaching music in the Monroe School District. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - If a tall man with a big grin happily demonstrated how a bunny hops and wiggles his big fluffy tail for your elementary music class, chances are you were a student of John Daane.

A Monroe School District music teacher for the past 47 years, the last 45 years at Northside Elementary School, Daane is retiring this year.

"I'm going to have to grow up now," he laughs.

At least 2,500 and perhaps closer to 3,000 students have said good-bye to Daane as they grew up and graduated.

At the last chorus performance he directed, the fifth-grade graduation ceremony on the last day of school Friday, June 7, many students, teachers and Daane himself were tearful.

The day before, Daane was vacuuming his classroom, especially where the risers had stood before being moved to the auditorium for graduation. A stack of hand-decorated, construction paper, "Miss You" cards lay on a nearby desk. One card was tacked to a bulletin board, and "We'll miss you, Mr. Daane" was written in bold red, childlike script on the whiteboard at the back of the room.

Daane didn't have a classroom of his own at Northside School until 2000.

"I was teaching music in the cafeteria for 32 years," he said and then shrugged. "But, that was all right, I guess, except when the floors were wet. And there was never enough room to store things."

With so many students passing through his classes, Daane admits he doesn't remember all of their names, but all his memories of them feel "great," he said.

There are some who stood out - such as the students who sang well as children and continued to do so all though their high school years.

"But, because there are so many choices in junior and senior high, fewer boys (than girls) stay with music," he said.

Music class is required at Northside, but chorus is by choice, and most students, even the boys, choose to participate.

He doesn't stop encouraging students to continue music, even those who have passed into high school.

After years of prodding by Daane, one student, Chuck Radke, now owner of Wing'N Pond, finally tried his hand at music in his senior year and told Daane he wished he had done it sooner.

"I told him, he had only himself to blame," Daane laughed.

Another student became a teacher in Brodhead and recently called Daane to get the lyrics he wrote for her elementary class, so she could use it in her classes.

And then there are the students whose names Daane says in a tone that might lead one to believe they may have been a bit of a scamp in class - like little "Johnny Baumann." John Baumann, now, president and CEO of Colony Brands, Inc., is also known in the area for his performance as Scrooge in the Monroe Theatre Guild's stage production of "A Christmas Carol."

Good music performances come by talent and interest, Daane said. Musically talented or musically interested parents often pass on their passion to their children. Music is also an avenue for success for those students who are not academically inclined, he added.

"Students can learn a lot of stuff by sitting there and listening (in music classes)," Daane said.

Although the teaching profession has changed a lot in the last 47 years, Daane said, "anybody interested in going into music wouldn't be deterred."

"You have to have patience to be a teacher. Anyone who enjoys music would enjoy teaching, too. That's part of the fun," he added.

Daane has made no plans for his new-found free time. He will continue to play the organ on Sundays at various churches, including Monroe United Methodist Church, Zwingli United Church of Christ, St. John's United Church of Christ, and for the Grace Lutheran choir. He has directed adult music, a ladies' "triple trio" and a hand bell choir at the United Methodist Church, as well as some Monroe Theatre Guild performances.

But he wants to spend the summer leisurely contemplating his next gig on the stage of life.