Compassion is constant drumbeat for band leader
“If there was ever someone who could be deemed an Amazing Educator, it is Mr. Dana Henson,” said Erin Busby, a coach for Oregon City High School’s color guard team.
Busby, who has known Henson for nearly 12 years — first as his band student — added, “In that time, I have only grown more and more impressed with him as a teacher and educator. I first met Dana as a freshman coming into the band program, and from day one, he was incredibly supportive and encouraging in everything I did.”
During the 2011-12 school year, Henson began working at OCHS while his predecessor Bill Bartman decided to work only half-time. Bartman had just been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a peripheral neuropathy disorder affecting his ability to stand and walk.
Henson was a senior at Siuslaw High School when he met Bartman, and the two immediately hit it off.
“Dana ended up being the band director at the high school when he was still a senior, and he took them to state. My daughter was in his band, and we got to be really good friends,” Bartman said.
Henson went on to Oregon State University, Bartman’s alma mater, studying to become a band director.
“Dana was considered by his professors to be the best field show instructor,” Bartman said, so the school district hired Henson to replace Bartman.
Henson said he was glad to be able to continue the “legacy” that Bartman established at OCHS by “continuing to build on an already award-winning program.”
Despite his immense workload teaching hundreds of students annually in several band disciplines, Henson is known for praising everyone except for himself, starting with his talented students.
“Our band is an exemplary representative of the Oregon City community,” Henson said. “But the best thing is the kids — the students. Who else can get up at 5:30 a.m. and play at 6:30 a.m.? They come with smiling faces — ready to play. They are really special out here.”
Going above and beyond his job description, Henson has a pattern of helping those in the Oregon City community with medical issues. For example, while organizing a recent fundraiser for her medical expenses, he described Syliva Soumokil as a “can-do” person who helps organize band trips and, as the uniform coordinator, keeps the marchers looking their best.
“Sylvia has touched the lives of everyone she meets. She is always full of energy and spirit. She has donated hundreds of hours to make sure all of our band students look their best. She has taken care of our marching uniforms to ensure they last for years to come. Without her help and support, the band would not be where it is today,” he said.
Henson is responsible for saving Busby’s life, and she says many other students’ lives as well because “his class and the band program at OCHS made it so that I kept coming to school every day despite the serious mental health issues.”
Now as an adult coach working in close proximity with Henson, Busby was once again floored by Henson’s “endless compassion” and dedication to his students.
“He has only grown in his passion, understanding and dedication to his students,” Busby said. “Throughout my high school years, his classroom became a safe space for myself and many others; he is always willing to listen, provide advice or just give a comforting space to sit quietly.”