Daniel Antonelli, a native of Switzerland, is always committed to excellence. Growing up he worked hard in his chosen high school track (the academic/college-bound track), where he obtained a baccalaureate in modern languages and music. He then pursued and completed his masters in eurythmics (a process for awakening, developing, and refining innate musicality through rhythmic movement, ear-training, and improvisation) and music education, became a certified PreK–6 music teacher, and won a scholarship to further his music education. Daniel’s subsequent journey to a life in NYC began one summer when he won another scholarship to study at Juilliard, where he studied in a self-tailored program under the renowned professor Robert M. Abramson, the director of the Dalcroze Program.
After his summer at Juilliard, Daniel went back to finish first his master’s in Switzerland, then lived in Italy where he was in a street music tour group that toured throughout Southern Europe. He later returned to NYC to scale new academic heights: “I lived with two native New Yorkers, my family by now, who urged me to apply to Columbia for both reputation and convenience,” so he applied to Teachers College and was accepted into the program. He then completed a master’s degree at Teachers College (TC), and recently obtained his doctorate, Ed.D., in Music and Music Education from TC.
Daniel is quite pleased with his course at Teachers College. To any prospective students, he says that the TC music program is “Non-conventional and non-traditional and almost always in a very positive way. You have to be wanting to be non-traditional, but if you are that or are willing to explore that, TC is perfect.” Daniel admits, “I am a very critical person, but I can only speak positively and highly of the faculty and my experience at TC in the program. The vastness of offerings here is great. For those non-traditional pathways, I can’t think of any other better institution.” It didn’t take long for him to put that progressive education into practice in the New York City public schools, where he worked for ten years.
Daniel’s dedication and passion are reflected in a trip he organized and led for his students at his first high school in NYC. This expedition was not your ordinary field trip; the group went to Europe and visited Daniel’s former school in Switzerland, interacting with the students there, and exploring the Swiss Alps. Visiting France, Italy, and Switzerland, they experienced the history and cultures they had been reading about in class, and had the chance of a lifetime to explore and take part in cultures different than their own. Global history literally came alive!
The theme of the trip ultimately promted Daniel’s dissertation topic. He is interested in global education and the educative impact of international music trips, and in creating ways for students to experience globalization, mutually impacting a group or groups from another culture, and seeing the beauty of hands-on learning. “ I looked at what an international, transcultural, 21st century education might look like. People always talk about globalization or global citizenship, but I’d rather have kids experience globalization and other cultures than read about it from a book.” He has witnessed the transformation of this global education in his own students, encouraged by the positive transformation that follows.
Daniel’s experience with the public school system in NYC, however, has been challenging. He has had to overcome numerous obstacles, such as limited resources, less than cooperative/ideal administration, and an extraordinary number of students in each class. “At my first high school, I was hired in the hopes of creating a drum circle with the students. Two months later, we were in a basement room with no windows and had nothing. Then we had the cheapest $2 trash bins, which broke almost immediately and gave no sound.” All of these conditions combined would put even the best educators to the test. However, Daniel’s tenacity and ingenuity drove him to make a less-than-ideal situation into something beautiful. The music budgets at the schools where Daniel worked were thin, but Daniel used a combination of creativity and the non-traditional approach to music education cultivated at TC to create an initiative that is now almost a decade old. This initiative is called the Instrument Project.
With humble beginnings, the instrument project was shaped into something beautiful.
Because he was hired at a school that had never had a music program before, he built it from the ground up. After contributing out of his own pocket to purchase 5 gallon buckets to be used as drums, Daniel decided to take his music program a step further. He created a project in which his students created their own instruments from scratch, doing research on the origins of their chosen instrument and writing a reflection on the whole process. To his delight, his students drew a great deal on their heritage, seeking help from relatives— which created opportunity for families to bond—to create their special instrument. Daniel was blown away by the creativity and quality of the instruments his students created, and therefore has implemented the instrument project nearly every year since.
“It came out of me having zero budget for many years in a row. Honestly, I first started the instrument project out of an angry reaction, thinking it would turn out horribly and it might inspire someone on the administration to fund me. But the results of the project have gotten better and better. These are really great, creative instruments! A girl hand-made a violin! She worked on it every night for 4 weeks with her father. Incredible. Another year two kids made cajons. They looked like they were from a music store, they were so authentic.” Impressed by his students anew each year, Daniel has brought this project with him to each school he has taught in. “The last was by far the best year. Two cajons, a harp, a banjo, a violin, congas. I couldn’t have even made 70% of the instruments.” The impact of this powerful and moving project did not stop with the creative aspect. “I also saw the social aspect to it. It was a super meaningful unit because they had to sit down and do something tactile. It often connected them to their heritage. They sat down with a family member to help. A lot of immigrant parents are prevented from helping homework-wise because of the language, but they were able to help with this project, getting very involved and enthusiastic about it.”
Daniel’s life embodies a commitment to excellence; when life gives him lemons, he makes lemon sorbet. For most, having 500 students in a music program that doesn’t yet exist could be overwhelming, but for Daniel, it’s been a chance to exercise non-traditional education practices in a way that brings music to life for all.
After 10 years of service in the New York City department of Education, Daniel was hired by the Scarsdale public schools for the position of middle school general music as well as Eurhythmics teacher at the elementary school. His ability and experience teaching all grade levels made Daniel an expert across the spectrum in K-12 general music teaching.
In 2019, Daniel accompanied a US–Malaysian study abroad program that took place in the Kelantan rain forest, amongst other places, in Malaysia where US American music and music education students collaborated with Malay music education students. This project served as Daniel’s dissertation study, which explored the educative impact of a music study abroad program, specifically, what role music plays in encounters between students from diverse cultural backgrounds, and how such programs can help shape the identity of a global citizen and lead to a more socially just global community. Daniel successfully defended his dissertation “the educative impact of music study abroad” in 2020. Currently working on a publication and engaged in advanced studies in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, Daniel is contemplating to pursue another doctoral degree to further refine both his artistry as well as pedagogical skills.