David Greennagel, VCUarts Department of Music’s director of music education of more than 15 years, is retiring. In addition to his leadership role in music education, Greennagel has also served as the department’s director of graduate studies and an assistant professor beloved by his students.
“Dr. Greennagel is extremely kind, empathetic and balanced in his approach to seeing children, adolescents and even college students as fully formed individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses,” says Alden Blevins (BM ’15), a former student of Greennagel’s who has taught at Randolph Elementary School in Goochland County for five years. “He manages to hear his students, see his students, and stand with his students while simultaneously tempering their needs and concerns with the unfailingly optimistic belief that we can and will do better, and that we can help leave this place—our schools, our students, our world—better than we found it through the power of music education.”
Greennagel’s music education career spans more than 35 years. He has taught in elementary, middle and high school settings in choral, general, guitar and music technology in Virginia and with the Department of Defense Schools in Germany and Japan. He previously served as director of choral activities at Randolph-Macon College and director of music education at Florida International University in Miami, as well as in appointments at James Madison University. He was also the supervisor of arts education for Arlington Public Schools in Virginia.
Greennagel’s colleagues say that his leading role within VCUarts helped shape the music education program and the music department as a whole.
“I routinely get messages from teachers that act as cooperating teachers for our students that tell me that we have the best-prepared student teachers that they get,” says Terry Austin, interim chair of music. “That is no accident. That is part of the process that Dave created.”
Austin recalls how Greennagel “hit the ground running” when he joined VCUarts, bringing with him a clear and inspiring vision that set standards for professionalism and camaraderie among faculty and students.
“His impact has been enormous,” says Austin, “and the reach of it will last for many years as our students impact their own students.”
Greennagel’s work has been recognized with awards, such as the Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching, and positions on the editorial advisory board of the Music Educators Journal, the review board of the American Choral Directors Association Journal, and the editorial board of Research Perspectives in Music.
For alumni like Sara Jones (BM ’13), Greennagel’s influence has resonated far beyond just music education. Jones says that he has mentored and guided her even after she graduated, and has since become her respected colleague.
“He listened more than he spoke, but he always found a way to say the most encouraging words possible,” says Jones. “He told me that he believed in me and, since I had such a high opinion of him, that made me feel like I could do anything.”