Shaffer School Principal/Superintendent Joshua Blackburn, left, and music teachers Laurentiu Norcel and Ben Wade celebrate the return of elementary school music education in Lassen County. Photo by Sam Williams

Shaffer Elementary hires full-time music teacher; launches new era in music education

Music education for Lassen County’s younger students just got a big shot in the arm as Shaffer Elementary School Superintendent/Principal Joshua Blackburn announces the hiring of a full-time music teacher at the school in Litchfield beginning next year.

Blackburn acknowledges while he is not a musician, he recognizes the importance of music education, so he’s taking another step forward in his effort to make his school the best in Lassen County.

Laurentiu Norcel begins teaching music to the Shaffer students this August, and he was in Susanville earlier this week meeting with Blackburn and Lassen High School music teacher Ben Wade, making connections and working on a curriculum.

When Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 28 last November, that vote brought about $1 billion per year to California schools for art and music instruction, and that created a vision for Blackburn to consider adding music instruction at his school.

Wade said this vital educational element has been sorely missed because when music teacher Suzi Blackwood left Janesville School in 2010, it was a huge loss for students in the community.

“There have been two generations of elementary school students in Lassen County with no music instruction,” Wade said, “but we’re changing that. Josh took a big step forward, and we’ll have to see if the other school districts in Lassen County will follow suit.”

He praised Blackburn’s dedication to his students and his school.

“It all starts with the kids,” Wade said, calling Blackburn’s hiring of Norocel the start of the creation of a “dream team” he said could put the music scene in Lassen County on the map.

Norocel came from his native Romania to continue his music education, earning a master’s degree in violin performance. Wade said he also performs as a “freelance” musician for symphony orchestras such as the Reno Philharmonic, the Boston Philharmonic and the Baton Rouge Symphony. He said he expects Shaffer School will become a feeder program for both LHS and the Susanville Symphony.

A true educator, Norocel also said he believes anyone can become an excellent and proficient musician given the proper training and instruction. In fact, he said proper training and education are far more important and in the end will carry a student much farther than natural talent and ability alone.

He said he expects to focus on strings, but he can also teach a variety of instruments including the human voice, piano, guitar, percussion and more.