‘Dr. Dan’ Harrison performs his last note as a Utah Conservatory teacher
Dr. Daniel Harrison’s career at the Utah Conservatory has reached its coda.
Harrison, who retired on June 6 from his duties as piano, theory, conducting and organ teacher, will be forever grateful for the 11 years he spent at the Park City-based music school.
“It was a wonderful opportunity,” Harrison said. “As I approached retirement and knew it was going to happen soon, I was so grateful it was going to be at a reputable school. I feel bad I have to leave, but age does its thing.”
Harrison, fondly referred to as “Dr. Dan” by his students, worked with all ages and levels of musicians.
“I really loved giving lessons to adults who are just beginning to play,” he said. “Every time I start a class with a new student, I would tell them how brave they were to pick something up in their mature years.”
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Harrison, a longtime member of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers, also enjoyed sharing his love of the piano to children.
“At the end of every term, we would host a recital, during which many of the students performed,” he said. “They all played well, and while I don’t mean to sound proud or anything, but I was very proud of them.”
Harrison, who served as president and board member of two chapters of the Utah Music Teachers Association, started his career as a Utah Conservatory teacher after a career as a professor at the University of Santa Clara in California, and at Dixie State University in St. George.
Harrison remembers when he joined the Utah Conservatory staff.
“That involved an audition and interview,” he said. “Right from the start, I sensed immediately how genuine and interested the staff was in its students. And I want to encourage students of all ages to get involved with the Utah Conservatory. They are doing some wonderful things.”
One of those wonderful things, he said, is the Conservatory’s philosophy to teach with compassion, which aligns with Harrison’s own teaching philosophy he began to develop when he was in high school.
“From there, I taught through my undergraduate years and through my graduate years,” he said. “I love teaching, and I never felt I was in the wrong field. I enjoyed working with the students, even if they haven’t practiced. I loved devising ways to inspire them.”
Harrison’s love of teaching only rivaled his love of music, which started with the piano and clarinet.
“I don’t actually know how I came into those instruments, except that my folks had a piano and I took to it from the beginning,” he said. “I learned to play the clarinet in high school, but that ended when I had an accident where I fell and lost my teeth. But it was OK, because I still had the piano.”
Since Harrison has performed all different styles of piano and organ, he doesn’t really have a favorite composer.
“I love Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and all of them,” he said. “But if I had the opportunity to play a piece from anyone it would probably be a piece by Brahms.”
Harrison is currently pondering his future as a retiree.
“To be honest, I don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I have to do some soul searching because I’m now footloose and fancy free. It will be intriguing and fun to me to try out some new things.”
Harrison will remain with the Utah Conservatory in a consultation role while his replacement, world-renowned pianist and conductor Jeff Manookian adjusts to his place on the staff, said conservatory founder Debra Cook in a Utah Conservatory press release. (See accompanying story).
Harrison is excited that Manookian will join the faculty.
“Jeff is a veteran teacher, and I really like him,” Harrison said. “He composed some pieces for the Music Teachers Association that I had the opportunity to play through, and I really liked them.”
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