Excellent Educator: Anoka High School’s Music Director, Michael Halstenson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s that time of the week when we recognize a great teacher in our community. This week’s Excellent Educator has quite the resume.

Not only is Michael Halstenson the Music Director at Anoka High School, but his works have been performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra and the University of Minnesota Opera Theater — just to name a few.

Halstenson’s most excellent work though may be the impact he’s had in the lives of students in need at Anoka, which is what makes him this week’s Excellent Educator.

You could say just as much laughter as music comes from Halstenson’s classroom. It’s been a constant mix of the two in his class for the last 34 years.

“And I still look so young,” he laughed. “My dad was a musician and a music teacher so I started young and it’s always been part of my life.”

Halstenson’s lifelong love of music is coupled by another lifelong passion, which is also the talk of the school. His very worn chair, passed down through other instructor friends, is as just as much of a fixture at Anoka High as he is.

“I took the chair. I’m the third generation on that I think, it still has a lot of sitting in it,” he said.

It’s clear Halstenson won’t be trading in for a new chair any time soon, even though no one deserves it more. Just look at what he’s done for others.

For the last five years, Halstenson has organized and directed charity rock concerts raising money for students in need at Anoka. The amount raised is nothing to shake a stick at.

“We’re sitting right now at about $185,000 over five concerts,” he said. “It’s perfect, we worked really hard. Everybody has worked really hard.”

His greatest reviews come from his students.

“He never stops working on music. It’s always 100 percent for him,” student Grace Baldus said.

“Orchestra was kind of like my safe haven, like whenever I was having a bad day he could always cheer us up,” Shelby Harmon, another student, said.

But on this day the cheer in the air is all for their teacher.

Halstenson’s next big project is coming up soon, too.

On Oct. 24, Garrison Keillor will be broadcasting a Prairie Home Companion live from Anoka High School, his alma mater. Halstenson’s students will be providing the accompaniment.

More from Kim Johnson
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