Norman R. Wendel is retiring with a song in his heart.
Saturday evening, more than a 150 students he has taught over the past 34 years in the Granite District, parents, educators and others will honor the choral director at an open house from 8 to 10 p.m. at Taylorsville High School, 5225 S. Redwood Road.A one-hour program honoring Wendel is planned before the reception begins. The school will open at 6:30 p.m.
As a young university student, Wendel initially planned to major in engineering science. But he went on to receive a bachelor's degree in instrumental and vocal music at the University of Utah and then to teach and direct choirs for 17 years at Granger High and for the same amount of time at Taylorsville High.
He has had a profound effect on the lives of thousands of students, said Diana Jensen, Centerville, chairwoman of the reception and one of Wendel's former students at Granger.
He's always been able to "look at the individual, bring out his strengths and give him the opportunity to grow," said Jensen, who sang in the Granger Madrigals during 1974 and 1975.
As an illustration of his feelings about the potential of people, Wendel says he still believes everyone can be taught to sing.
"I just don't believe in monotones. I believe everyone can learn to sing and enjoy it. The only ones I haven't been successful with are those who have had some kind of brain damage, and they are really in the minority."
Wendel, who was com-mand-er/-bandmaster for 19 of his nearly 43 years with the Utah National Guard's 23rd Army Band, has received many honors during his teaching career. He stepped down from the band's director's post a year ago and is now playing clarinet for the group.
He was selected Granite District Teacher of the Year in 1983 and was runner-up that year in state competition for the same title. In 1990 he was chosen Outstanding Utah Music Educator by the Utah Music Educators Association. Last year he was honored by the Utah High School Activities Association as the Outstanding Music Teacher of the Year.
Wendel, who in 1992 took the National Guard band to St. Petersburg, Russia, says being able to work with and see young people grow and enjoy good music has been one of the highlights of his life.
He says he now is planning some "unscheduled" time. That will involve more time with his family, including two grandchildren. While he won't be spending as much time training and working with students, music will still undoubtedly be a very important part of his life.
For instance, he and his wife, Catherine, are leaving Sunday for Bellevue, Wash., where for five days he will instruct teachers in how to teach music theory and harmony.