Posted on 10/04/2023

Dakota Shertzer

When it comes to music, you could honestly say Dakota Shertzer does it all. The MAHS senior's instrumental career began in fourth grade when he picked up his first clarinet under the direction of Mrs. Catherine Kaslusky, Middletown Area School District Elementary Band teacher. He has since moved on to bass clarinet, alto sax, piano, guitar, euphonium, and his current favorite, baritone saxophone which he plans to play in college. By the end of this year, he hopes to have had experience with every instrument available to him. Not only is he an instrumentalist, but he is a vocalist and a leader. He has served as an officer for both band and choir.

Last year, as a junior, every Monday Dakota had a 14-hour day at school due to after-school rehearsals for Select Choir, Jazz Band, and Percussion Ensemble. “It might seem like I’m crazy for doing a lot of stuff,” says Dakota, “but honestly staying at school for 14 hours wasn’t a stress at all for me. I just love music.” As a result of his dedication, he was selected for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 7 Chorus along with two other juniors. The chorus was directed by Dr. Robert Bigley, choral director at Lancaster Bible College, which Dakota describes as an overwhelming experience. “He rewired our brains to sing in a completely different way than we had before. He taught us to sing thematically which was like singing with a little bit of acting.” The choir sang a spiritual called “Hold On” and Dr. Bigley instructed them to sing like James Earl Jones as a southern preacher. “He taught us how to sing each word with a deeper meaning and the end result was like a story being told. This style of singing literally took my breath away. I couldn’t finish one of the songs.”

Belle and her fatherDakota has found a love for performing and says, “Some of my favorite moments have been on stage.” Dakota played the role of Belle’s father in the Middletown Area High School performance of Beauty and the Beast in the spring of 2023. He was easily identifiable as the actor on the giant tricycle. He has also played roles in productions at local theaters such as the Little Theater of Mechanicsburg and the Popovosky Performing Arts Center.

Buildings in EuropeDakota had the incredible opportunity to take his talents overseas. In the summer of 2023, he was one of 126 musicians who were selected to participate in the “Silver Tour” with the organization American Music Abroad, which was a 3-week performing tour of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France. Dakota is the first individual to ever qualify for all four ensembles on the Silver Tour: band ensemble, choir ensemble, vocal jazz ensemble, and jazz band. He had to master a total of 29 songs as a Tenor I and a baritone saxophone player.

With all those incredible experiences in his back pocket, Dakota has entered his senior year with great aspirations. He is an intern in Miss Kyzer’s Music classes at Middletown Area Middle School and is having a blast. He has taught students guitar chords and even got to play the piano for the choir which was a highlight for him. He plans to pursue his dream to teach music and become a marching band director and direct productions. His music teachers at MASD have truly inspired him to pursue a future in music. “Mr. Fisher taught me to stick with band and I’m very thankful for that. Mr. Hartman showed me how to have fun with band. Ms. Zlogar has given me so many opportunities and helps me get through anything and pushes me forward. This list wouldn’t be complete without Mr. Landrum. He will not stop at adequacy. He wants you to get better and keep pushing. He is responsible for my dedication to band. He’s helped me mature in other ways, too, not just band. He and Ms. Zlogar are like my secondary parents. They are amazing.”

Dakota aspires to reach state chorus this year. He hopes to be in both the fall play and the spring musical alongside of his talented group of peers who take their roles seriously and are dedicated to their craft. We can’t wait to see them all shine along with Dakota on the Middletown Area High School stage this year.

Shertzer with Shover

Dave Shover, Vocal Jazz Director on the Silver Tour, with Dakota Shertzer

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