SMA helps keep music as one of the glories of school district

by Dennis Dalman

Music is one of the crowning glories of the Sartell-St. Stephen School District, and Jody Pasell wants to keep it that way.

Pasell, who has had a lifetime passion for all things musical, is president of the Sartell Music Association, which raises about $10,000 annually to help music programs in all grades in Sartell schools. Although the school district and its board members have always been very supportive of music programs, school budgets are tight, as they are in almost all school districts. The Sartell Music Association, keenly aware of pinched school finances, has long filled certain gaps and needs in the programs.

What concerns Pasell, however, is that if contributions dwindle or more money can’t be realized through fundraisers, the SMA might have to cut back on some of its projects. For example, the SMA gives two $1,000 scholarships to two deserving graduating seniors each spring. The SMA Board might have to forego giving one of those scholarships in the future.

Pasell said the school district has been extremely grateful for SMA’s projects. In return, Pasell said she is grateful the Sartell-St. Stephen School District has always strongly supported music programs, unlike other school districts that, when in a financial bind, tend to target music and the arts as the first victims of the budget axe.

Pasell and other SMA members on the six-member board are proud of the SMA’s accomplishments throughout the years. For example, the two holiday concerts on the night of Dec. 17 were huge successes and fine examples of how music flourishes in Sartell schools. The concerts, entitled “Songs of the Season,” featured singers accompanied by an orchestra the SMA hired, at a cost of $1,500. At this point, Sartell does not have its own orchestra. But happily, that may change in the coming years. Just this school year, an orchestra strings class was begun at Sartell Middle School by the new director, Dave Lumley. That is expected to rapidly become a seed program that will grow each year until there is a full-fledged and successful Sartell-St. Stephen School Orchestra.

The following is a list of some of the many ways the SMA has contributed in recent years and this year, too, to the success of music in Sartell schools:

• Donates $1,500 annually for the Artist in Residency program, which recently featured Native American dancers performing at the elementary schools. It also funds guest conductors now and then.

• Purchased enough basic instruments – including triangles, bells and drums – so all children at the elementary-school level have their own to play.

• Helps buy band instruments for the Sartell Marching Band.

• Purchased costume dresses for the girls choir.

• Bought a wireless stereo system needed by the middle-school choir director, Kay Nelson. The SMA also hired a musical assistant for the middle-school choir concert Dec. 13.

• Purchased instruments to start a “Crackerjack-style” small drumline for Sartell students, plus a curriculum showing how to set up such a drumline, so popular in parades.

• As mentioned above, the SMA gives two $1,000 scholarships each spring.

Pasell is excited about the “Sartell’s Got Talent” show set for Feb. 9. This year, the theme will be “Beach Boys,” and students and some adults will perform variety music (instrumentals, singing, groups, solos) for the first hour. That will be followed by band director Lumley’s band performance of Beach-Boy-type songs from the 1960s. After that, there will be more musical performances and skits by students and adults. There will be cash prizes for the top three acts. It’s an ideal time, Pasell said, for parents to hear the musical numbers their children have been working on so hard for so long, in preparation for the regional Solo and Ensemble contest coming up later.

There is no venue yet announced for the “Sartell’s Got Talent” show, but it will be announced in the media, including the Sartell Newsleader, in the near future.

Other musical events Pasell hopes parents and the general public look for are the high school “Jazz Extravaganza” in February and the elementary schools’ “Music in Our Schools” concerts this spring. More details about them will be announced later.

Pasell said the SMA could really use a few more board members and volunteers, not to mention monetary contributions to help it continue its projects for the schools’ musical programs. To find out how to join or to contribute, go to the school site’s website at On the blue tab bar above, click on “Community.” Then, within the pull-down menu, click on “Sartell Music Association.” There, a membership form can be downloaded.

Anyone interested in the SMA can also email the organization at

Pasell, a data analyst at the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Hospital, loves to play piano and flute. Music is definitely a hereditary trait, she believes. Her daughter, Hanna, who is a chemistry student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, also plays piano and flute. Her other daughter, Taylor, a junior at Sartell High School, plays piano, guitar and sings in the high school’s concert choir and with the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota. Although Pasell’s husband, Bryan, does not play an instrument, he loves music and has been unstintingly supportive of his family’s musical pursuits, Passel added.

“Music is so important for learning,” she said. “They’ve proven it’s good for both parts of the brain and helps students learn other subjects. And it’s a lifelong pleasure people can enjoy. So many people at the Monday-night concert did not have kids in school. They attended it because they wanted to appreciate the music. That shows how important music is to people.”



[/media-credit] Lauren Tilstra (middle center) sings during the “Songs of the Season” Dec. 17 at Sartell High School.

[/media-credit] The Sartell All-Choir group fills the auditorium with glorious sound during the Dec. 17 concert at Sartell High School.

[/media-credit] A line of tuba players rehearses in the band room at Sartell Middle School.

[/media-credit] A percussion group at Sartell Middle School practices on drums and xylophones.

Dennis Dalman

Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.
Dennis Dalman
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