Retiring District 279 music coordinator is going to Yale

Dr. Wendy Barden is one of 50 Yale Distinguished Music Educators

Osseo Area Schools’ Music Coordinator Dr. Wendy Barden is ending her career on a high note.

She plans to retire this year after 36 years as a music educator in the district – 21 as the music coordinator.

Dr. Wendy Barden conducts students from Osseo Area Schools in a concert at Orchestra Hall.
Dr. Wendy Barden conducts students from Osseo Area Schools in a concert at Orchestra Hall.

But she isn’t going out merely as a respected educator in the district – she’s going out as one of 50 Yale Distinguished Music Educators who will gather at a symposium to discuss this year’s theme, the role of music in school reform.

Barden was nominated for the honor by Supt. Kate Maguire and selected after submitting an application that asked what she could contribute to the discussion if she were selected.

In the application, Barden discussed the need to focus on results. Measuring results of music education may seem difficult, but she and the 55 music educators she oversees have been focusing on that topic.

“We do look at data, just like reading or math,” Barden said.

Based on her application, Barden was selected to attend the symposium at the Yale School of Music in June.

“I’m really excited that they think I have something to offer,” she said.

To Jody Kinneberg of Osseo Junior High, the decision came as no surprise. When she found out Barden was receiving the honor, she thought, “Wendy could teach the class. … I hope they can teach her as much as she could teach them.”

Kinneberg, who teaches orchestra, band and general music, has worked with Barden for 17 years.

“Wendy Barden is a visionary,” she said. “She’s always looking for opportunities to make music come alive for every student.”

Kinneberg also called her a “master teacher.”

Barden, who graduated from the district, said she had powerful inspirations. She remembers having quality music teachers in school, and both her parents were educators.

But no one inspired her more than her father. Tears flowed when she spoke of his legacy and influence on her life.

“My father was a music educator,” she said. “He passed away 15 years ago. I think I always just wanted to do what he was doing.”

Barden is satisfied with what she has accomplished during her career. She’s especially proud of the district’s partnership with Orchestra Hall that allows students to perform concerts there every few years. She’s also pleased the district has been recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants as one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” for the past five years.

“Music is an important part of a child’s life and can provide them with a different way of knowing and a different way of learning … so that taken all together, music is an important part of education,” she said.

Barden said the district has been supportive of music education, even when the budget is tight, and she hopes that will continue.

When Barden retires, her position will be eliminated as the department restructures in an effort to save money. However, she’s working now to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“We’re working on how to get those essential services in place,” she said. “It feels like there is a desire to continue a strong music program.”

Still, she admitted that knowing the position will be cut does make retirement “a little bittersweet.”

But she is looking forward to spending more time with her flute and piccolo, which she hasn’t been able to practice much for years.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to playing more when I’m retired,” she said.