Manatee Arts Education Council, a group co-sponsored by the Manatee Arts Council and the School Board of Manatee County, honored Dale Jensen by giving his name to the newly created award honoring lifetime work in music education. Annually, from 2020 and beyond, the Manatee Arts Education Council will give the Dale Jensen Music Education Award to those who have contributed in a meaningful way to enhancing music education in the community.

“I feel very honored to be chosen for this award,” says Jensen. “And I feel honored to have worked with so many wonderful teachers who worked hard every day to make the Exploratory Wheel program successful. It took teamwork, and it was all those great teachers who brought it to life.”

Leading a team to develop the Exploratory Wheel, a model that was replicated in other Florida districts, is one of Jensen’s notable achievements during his 21-year tenure as Music Supervisor for Manatee County Schools. The program successfully increased the number of Middle School students from all socio-economic backgrounds who learned to play musical instruments. The number of students who chose to continue playing an instrument increased as well. Jensen recalls some parents commenting that they never knew playing a violin, trumpet or any musical instrument would strike a chord with their child.

“We need fine arts in schools,” says Jensen, “because the arts encourage creativity.”

Since 1958, Jensen has served as an influential music educator in Florida and Georgia. Having led bands and orchestras at all levels, he has continued to perform as a flutist and conductor in orchestras and choirs throughout his life. He has also shared his organizational expertise by serving as president of the Florida Music Supervision Association and the Florida Orchestra Association, and on boards of other community organizations.

Jensen’s other awards include being selected S.T.A.R. Teacher at Tift County High in Tifton, GA. The FSU School of Music faculty recognized him with the Ella Scoble Opperman Award in Music Education and Leadership, and he was named Friend of the Arts by Sigma Alpha Iota.

Asked about recent scientific studies reporting that musicians develop bigger, better-functioning brain structures that show improved memory and cognitive skills, Jensen replies, “Isn’t that interesting? So, let’s give everybody a chance to learn to play an instrument, paint, dance, experience fine arts. We don’t know who the next Picasso or the next Yo-Yo Ma will be.”

Article by Carlene Cobb | Courtesy photo provided by Manatee Arts Education Council