Chair of Conservatory Academics Division and Professor of Music Education David S. Zerull, Ph.D., has announced his retirement from Shenandoah Conservatory at the end of the 2022/23 academic year. Zerull began working at Shenandoah in 1990 and will retire after 33 years of dedicated service to its artistic and educational community.
“As his colleagues have come to know, David is one of those special faculty who is not only passionate about his discipline and his students, he is also an invested community member,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Dean and Professor of Music Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “Throughout his exceptional tenure of service at Shenandoah — 33 years! — David has not only been a skilled and active teacher and scholar; he has consistently gone above and beyond to help students, staff, and faculty feel valued and supported, even as he has taken on important leadership positions. I’m grateful for his service; we will miss him!”
A passionate advocate for music education, Dr. Zerull was named Shenandoah University Exemplary Teacher of the Year in 2019 for his excellence in teaching, availability and concern for students and contributions to the university. He joined the faculty in 1990 after teaching for 13 years in public and private schools in Ohio and Illinois. His classroom experience included vocal music, orchestra, band, marching band and jazz band. During his 33 years at Shenandoah University Zerull taught undergraduate and graduate courses in instrumental music methods, applied conducting, philosophy and contemporary trends in music education. He conducted the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall in 2007.
“Dr. Zerull was my dissertation advisor. He was always available to help with research, writing, and encouraging words,” said Pamela James ’06, ’09 (Master of Music Education, Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education). “I was eager to read his latest email regarding my work as his suggestions were challenging yet gentle. It was clear that Dr. Zerull was committed to his students’ success, and it is important to recognize Dr. Zerull’s impact on music education as his SU graduates teach in schools all over the country. One of his defining characteristics is that he is too modest to tell you that.”
Zerull appeared with honor, district and all-county bands in Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, as well as an Area All-State Band in New York. He has presented 50 in-service clinics in Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia; regional and national National Association for Music Education (NAfME) conferences, and at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. Presentation topics included “Improving Musicianship in the Ensemble,” “Developing Understanding Using a Comprehensive Approach in Performance Ensemble Classes,” “Teaching Expression,” “Assessing Musical Growth” and “Effective Interpretation and Conducting for Ensemble Conductors.”
“Dr. Zerull was a mentor to me while I was a student at SU during the summers in the early 2000s,” said Beth Peterson ’05 (Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education). “He is curious, kind, patient, intellectual and an awesome educator. He cares deeply about his students and is passionate about music education philosophy – balancing the ‘why’ we teach music with the ‘how to do it’ so incredibly well. In fact, I had the good fortune to live in his house with his family (his wife, Lisa, is a friend and wonderful person too) during my summers at SU. He was always willing to have a ‘deep’ conversation about music, education, music education and the state of the world. He pushed me to be a better thinker, writer and conductor and I truly appreciate all that he shared with me. I wish Professor Zerull the best retirement and thank him for all of his contributions to the many music educators whose lives he touched.”
Zerull has published articles in Music Educators Journal, Instrumentalist, Design for Arts in Education magazine and Arts Education Policy Review, focusing on the role of musical imagination and the musical listening experience. He is a contributing author for the monograph On the Nature of Musical Experience; authored the chapter “Reconsidering the Performing Ensemble Class and the Role of the Conductor/Teacher in Music Education” in “The Music Experience: Rethinking Music Teaching and Learning” published by Oxford University Press; authored the NAfME publication “Getting Started with High School Band” and was a contributor for “Strategies for Teaching Beginning and Intermediate Band” and “Strategies for Teaching High School Band,” both published by NAfME.
“If we could make 1,000 copies of David Zerull, the world would be a much better place,” said Cassidy Spruill ’20 (Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Instrumental Emphasis). “His kindness, expertise and sense of humor make him one of the most unique people I have ever met. His passion for learning in combination with his gentle and humorous nature has led to the best education I could have asked for, and on top of it all, he has the coolest tie collection in the world. I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and mentorship he has gifted me.”
Zerull has worked closely with music educators throughout the country as an adviser for more than 90 doctoral dissertations, master’s theses and master’s research teaching projects in the Shenandoah Conservatory graduate music education program. He was the first president of the Faculty Senate as faculty governance moved from faculty assembly to the senate structure. For many years, he has served as chair of the Conservatory Faculty Evaluation Committee.
“Dr. Zerull inspired me with his kindness both in my time at Shenandoah and the early years of my career,” said Brett Davey ’20 (Bachelor of Music in Music Education). “He has been a role model in how to get the most out of students by believing in their abilities, even when they don’t believe in themselves.”
In the community, Zerull served two terms on the Frederick County (Virginia) School Board, chairing the Instruction Committee; chaired the local chapter of the American Red Cross, and served as president of the Congregation of Grace Lutheran Church. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Zerull holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois).