Music professor receives Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Luke Dahn, assistant professor of music at Northwestern College, has been named this year’s recipient of the Northwestern Teaching Excellence Award. He received a $1,500 check and a commemorative plaque at a campus chapel service on May 4.

The award is sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Government Association (SGA).  Students nominated 22 professors for the honor. A selection committee—composed of two SGA members, three members of the Sigma Tau senior honor society, and two past award winners—pared the nominees to four finalists.

The major factor used in selected the award winner is evidence of strong teaching ability. The committee considered the number and quality of nominations in relation to candidates’ class sizes, student course evaluations, professional development, research and publications, and institutional service.

The other finalists were Kathy Coyle, instructor of nursing; Sandie Kinsinger, instructor of psychology; and Valerie Stokes, assistant professor of social work.

Dahn, in his fourth year on the faculty, teaches music theory and composition courses. He is described by sophomore elementary education and modified music major Rachel Lynn of Nebraska City, Neb., as both a skilled musician and a great teacher.

“He especially does well balancing the class time between lecture, projects and assignment work time in a way that we are able to apply what we’re learning with his and our peers’ guidance,” Lynn wrote in a letter of nomination. “Although we learn a lot in class, we also have time to have fun. He takes something that would often be tedious, like music lab, and makes it academically challenging and fun with games using Christmas carols and percussion instruments. 

“Not only is Dr. Dahn great at teaching classes, but he genuinely cares about his students,” Lynn continued. “He is open to people stopping by when they need help with assignments, and he tries to keep up with students’ lives. He also integrates faith in the classroom in a way that encourages real-life application of questions about our God-given gifts and the church.” 

Jessica Kleveland, a sophomore modified music and elementary education major from Fertile, Iowa, wrote, “Dr. Dahn is one of the most respected professors because of his knowledge and willingness to answer questions when a student is having a difficult time understanding the material. He is always willing to go back and discuss concepts for students to make sure they have a full understanding. He is willing to meet outside of class and will patiently work with you until you get it.”

An award-winning composer, Dahn has written pieces performed by groups and soloists such as the Boston Brass, Moscow Conservatory Studio for New Music, the NODUS Ensemble, the University of Iowa Center for New Music, and saxophonist Kenneth Tse. Venues have included the Estonia Academy of Music, the 14th International Saxophone Meeting in Slovenia, Harvard University’s Memorial Church, the Miami ISCM Festival Series and the N.E.O.N. (Nevada Encounters of New Music) Festival. Several of his works have been recorded on the Albany label, included his quintet Penumbrae, winner of the 2010 League Composers/ISCM Composers Competition. 

Dahn earned a doctorate in music composition from the University of Iowa, where he served as visiting assistant professor. He also received a Master of Music degree from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s in music from Houston Baptist University.