Alumni / History / Past Programs
Past Middle School Band Directors
Mark Sieger - 1981-2012
Mark Sieger earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Instrumental Music Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught music in Wisconsin for thirty-three years before retiring in June 2012. The first two of those years were in the Madison Metropolitan School District, with the final thirty-one spent at DeForest Middle School (1981-2012). What a fantastic position it was (and is)!
It is noteworthy that three commissions were completed during Mr. Sieger’s tenure. These works, written for and premiered by DeForest Middle School Bands, resulted from the collaboration of composer, students, and teacher. They were made possible through the generous funding of the DeForest Area Music Boosters Association and DeForest Area School District. The three commissions were "Three American Dances" by Hugh Stuart (1989), "Fantasy on a Fiddle Tune" by Pierre LaPlante (1997), and "Dance of the Spirits" by Michael Sweeney (2011).
In retirement, Mr. Sieger has many irons in the fire, but is still involved in music; working part time for the Ward-Brodt Music Company, substitute teaching in the DeForest band programs, playing in a brass quintet, singing in a choir, and playing his chicken horn at various events. Mr. Sieger misses the music making and connections with students and colleagues, and has too many favorite moments to recount here.
Mark was welcomed back to the district as a featured conductor at the first annual Elmer McLaughlin Memorial Band Concert on May 8, 2014. He led the concert band with his second middle school band commission, "Fantasy on a Fiddle Tune", which was dedicated to Carol Kalscheur for her 32 years of service to the DeForest Middle School vocal and general music programs. In the fall of 2016, he returned as a long term substitute for the high school band program for that semester.
The Mark Sieger Band Scholarship was created in his honor after his retirement. It was named after him because of the dedication, inspiration, and pride he conveyed through teaching his students.
Vance Nelson - 1977-1981
Vance W. Nelson, age 74, of Mount Horeb, formerly of Madison, died unexpectedly but peacefully at home on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Vance was born in Chicago, IL and met his wife Ann (Sipple) while they both studied Music Education at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Vance worked as a band director for many years throughout the Madison Area (Monroe, Lodi and DeForest Schools). Later in life, Vance pursued a career in landscaping. One of Vance's greatest passions was handbells, a love he shared with his wife. Vance directed the handbell choir at First Baptist Church in Madison for over 25 years and was currently serving as the Bell Director at Salem United Church of Christ in Verona at the time of death. Most recently, Vance spent time rehearsing and performing with the Iron Horse Coronet Band. Vance was an avid Badger fan. One of his fondest memories was participating in the 1963 Rose Bowl Parade and Game with the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.
Vance enjoyed many hobbies including golf, coin collecting, model trains and his unique coat hangers. Vance was generous with his friends and family and might best be described as a true character.
Richard Fellenz - 1968-1977 (Middle School); 1977-2000 (High School)
Richard served the DeForest School District as the first Middle School Instrumental Music Teacher from 1968 to 1977 and then as High School Instrumental Music Teacher from 1977 to 2000. During those 32 years, the concert bands at the Middle School (Class C) and High School (Class A) received first place ratings at the conference music festivals. The DeForest High School Band had the distinction of participating in the National Concert Band Festival hosted by the National Band Directors Association in 1984 and 1985 and winning top honors in 1985.
Richard was fond of John Philip Sousa Marches and included one at all of the concerts at the High School.
Richard also served as Allied Arts Department Chair for DeForest High School, coordinating the work of 13 teachers in the Art, Driver Education, Foreign Language, Music and Physical Education Departments.
Currently, Richard Fellenz is the Operations Manager for the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA) and Wisconsin Foundation for School Music (WFSM), a position he has held since 2011.
Richard has a long history with WSMA, WMEA and WFSM dating back to 1986 when he became Chair of the Music List Committee. He also served as Administrative Assistant for the State High School Honors Project from 1996 to 2001, as WSMA Festivals Coordinator from 2001 to 2004 and as a Program Associate from 2004 to 2010.
Richard has also been a painter and worked in maintenance during the summer months while teaching. He served Madison Baseball Incorporated: Madison Muskies in a variety of supervisory roles from 1985 to 1988 and served as DNR Camp Cook for the Swanson Corporation from 1970 to 1978.
Richard earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Instrumental Music Education in 1969 from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where he also took graduate courses.
Elmer McLaughlin (“Mac”) - 1933-1968 (Middle & High Schools); 1968-1977 (High School)
Elmer Ernst McLaughlin was born in Adams County and was the eldest of eight children. The family moved to a farm near Oregon where he attended and graduated from Oregon High School. Elmer attended UW-Madison and began working for DeForest on a part time basis in 1933. He became full time in 1935 at which time he started the first high school orchestra and taught algebra. He also took over the vocal work.
Elmer married Jean Norsman from Windsor in 1942. Jean was a member of the DeForest High School Band and played oboe under Elmer's instruction. Jean accompanied the choir for several years and also accompanied soloists and ensembles for the Solo and Ensemble Tournaments for a number of years. They had four children, all of whom attended DeForest and played in the band: Lynn, Neil, Ann, and Paul. Elmer's grandson Orrie Walsvik, a DeForest graduate of 2013, played trombone in the UW Marching Band.
Elmer served 3 1⁄2 years as a Naval Aviator during World War II teaching cadets to fly and seeing duty on Saipan as an Operations Officer. He was honorably discharged in 1944 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
The DeForest High School Concert Band under the direction of Elmer took first place for over 15 years in a row at school music festivals in the Class A competition level beginning in 1949. His mixed chorus and boys’ and girls’ glee clubs also earned Class A first division ratings for many years.
Enthusiastic and meticulous in his work, Mr. McLaughlin, year after year, transformed groups of novices into fine musicians. The DeForest High School Concert Band had the unique distinction of playing for the Music Educators National Conference in Chicago. In 1962 the Concert Band was judged the Outstanding Concert Band at the Wisconsin State Fair for which they were awarded the Governors Trophy by Governor Nelson. Elmer "Mac" McLaughlin was selected as 1978 Person of the Year by the DeForest Chamber of Commerce.
Elmer was particularly fond of John Philip Sousa marches and performed one at most every concert. Elmer also sought to play a variety of music that challenged students and included pieces familiar to the audience. Elmer was Band and Chorus Director for many years. He retired from his position as Band Director in 1977 after 43 years and continued in semi-retirement as a delivery person for the DeForest Area School District into his eighties.
In 2004, Elmer was inducted into the Norski Walk of Honor. Beginning in May of 2014, the final high school band concert of each school year is dedicated in honor of Elmer McLaughlin, his wife Jean, and his family. The annual Elmer McLaughlin Band Concert showcases students at the peak of their abilities during the school year, and had traditionally featured guest directors and commissions of new works for concert band. Elmer's dedication, passion, and energy was the driving force for excellence in music for many years in the DeForest School District and community. His work for so many years still has a positive influence on our music programs in DeForest today.
Ronald Lee - 1930-1933 (Part-Time Lesson Instruction) - The First School Band in DeForest
On April 24, 1930, a band concert was sponsored featuring the Rio School Band “in the hope of interesting the students in the DeForest schools toward forming a band here.” The DeForest High School Band was organized in the Fall of 1930 and came under the direction of Ronald Lee, a part-time instructor from 1930-1933. The choral work came under the direction of Agnes Caldwell who later was to become Mrs. Rex Englesby.