Teacher tunes in with music

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tim Rosenthal wouldn’t be without music.

Music brings Rosenthal joy, which he works to share with his students and the community.

“I wouldn’t exist on this planet if music didn’t exist,” Rosenthal said. “It encompasses a lot of who I am.”

Rosenthal, 41, is the general music teacher in the Turner School District’s elementary schools and the drama director at the middle and high schools. That’s a five-day-a-week job in the classroom and a seven-day-a-week job on stage, Rosenthal said.

He’s working on his own education, too, going to UW-Madison for a master’s in theater research—the technique of helping students learn by incorporating theater into the traditional classroom.

Rosenthal doesn’t teach drama because it’s fun. Theater allows students to find themselves by stepping into another character, he said.

“When you’re playing a role, you find bits of you,” he said.

Rosenthal “found himself” in the “Wizard of Oz,” and he wants his students to have the same chance.

The most challenging piece Rosenthal ever directed was this fall’s “Urinetown,” a satirical musical that mocks capitalism, bureaucracy and small-town politics.

It was the name, not the subject matter, that was tough for the Turner community to accept, Rosenthal said. But it was a challenging piece that let many students shine, he said.

And Jim Tropp, Rosenthal’s friend and former director at Janesville’s Theater Unlimited, said it let Rosenthal shine, too.

“He’s so committed, and he loves theater so much,” Tropp said. “You really saw it in ‘Urinetown.’ The love I see and feel in him for theater, he’s passing it down to the children.”

Rosenthal said his students would describe him at his best when things are light and he can bring humor into the classroom.

“The more comedic and carefree I am, the more it allows me to remember the big picture, to not take life so seriously.”

Rosenthal is a vocalist first. But he plays the French horn, too, and wants his students to get exposure to instrumental music as well as singing.

That’s not always easy. In the Turner district, third- through fifth-graders learn how to play the recorder, that wonderful plastic instrument that looks like a baby clarinet and sounds like a dieing peacock.

Rosenthal sees every student twice a week for thirty minutes, so that can be a lot of screeching.

“It can be a painful process,” Rosenthal said. “It takes three years to hone that craft. But it makes them much more music ready when they get into band.”

There are times when Rosenthal wants to give up the work of directing on top of teaching.

“It’s always about two and a half weeks before opening night,” Rosenthal said. “(My wife) Lizabeth knows the drill. It’s always the technical stuff. Not the kids.”

But the show has always gone on, because for Rosenthal, it’s life.

Tim Rosenthal
Age: 41
Community: Beloit Township
Hometown: Mayville, Wis.
Occupation: Elementary school general music teacher in the Turner School District
On the side: Middle and high school drama director and actor with Janesville’s Theater Unlimited
Family: Wife, Lizabeth; children,Taylor, 16, Hayley, 9, and Sam, 5
Best part about being a teacher: “Helping students to open up and share themselves. Theater gives them an avenue where they can discover what that really is by playing someone else.”
Worst part: Teaching third- through fifth-graders the recorder. “It can be a painful process.”
Part he always wanted to play and never got to: Pippin, the lead character in the musical of the same name.
Favorite musician: Billy Joel
Idea of a great vacation: Rosenthal once went to New York with his wife where they saw five shows in three days.

Last updated: 1:24 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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