By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — For more than two decades, Tony DiBartolomeo has been the face of the Timberlane Regional School District music program. Now, he’s the face of music teachers around the state.
DiBartolomeo, 60, was honored with the 2013 New Hampshire Music Educator of the year award for his 26 years of service to Timberlane. The award is given out by the New Hampshire Music Educators Association.
DiBartolomeo is the director of music for the Timberlane district and also conducts the Timberlane Community Band.
“It’s a lifetime achievement award,” DiBartolomeo said. “It’s really an honor to be in the group and presence of those who have been honored with this award in the past.”
DiBartolomeo was honored at a statewide conference in Concord last month, attended by teachers and students. He goes to the conference each year, but had no idea he would be the one receiving the most prestigious award of the night.
“I was sitting next to a colleague from another district and I asked him who was getting the award this year,” DiBartolomeo said. “He told me he didn’t know, but of course he knew.”
A representative from the board then started reading an excerpt from the nomination letter, written by DiBartolomeo’s colleagues. But the writing was vague enough that he still didn’t know it was him.
“A lot of people have those characteristics, which he was reading about,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, it hit home and I realized it was me.”
DiBartolomeo was then told to turn around and he saw his family and colleagues had come to Concord to watch him receive the award.
“I just couldn’t speak,” he said. “I was getting emotional. I wasn’t prepared at all and everything was just a surprise to me.”
DiBartolomeo’s students and colleagues agree that the award was well deserved.
“He really takes charge, not just of the music program but the whole school,” senior Nick Quirk said. “Even if kids aren’t in the band, people will look to him as a head figure that people can relate to.”
Quirk has been in the band since he was a freshman and is also a member of the community band. He said his relationship with DiBartolomeo is different than it is with any other teacher in the school.
“He will sometimes be here from 9 to 9,” Quirk said. “I think he’s one of the most devoted teachers we have here.”
For DiBartolomeo, the most important part of the job is that relationship he has with his students.
“I love teaching students through music,” he said. “I don’t say I teach music, I say I teach students. That vehicle is what you use to further their education. With music, you’re going to get to know individuals in a way that you might not with other subjects.”
The connection is so strong for DiBartolomeo with the students, that when it comes time to see them leave Timberlane, it becomes difficult.
“At the end of the school year, when the seniors have their final going-away event,” said John Mainella, Timberlane Middle School band director. “There are certain students that after four years, he can’t speak about because he gets so choked up because he got to know them so well.”
Mainella and several other colleagues in the music department decided to nominate DiBartolomeo because it was his final year as chairman of the All-State ensembles.
The department submitted the nomination to the NHMEA board, which picked DiBartolomeo for the award.
“I’m just really grateful,” he said. “The department is the one who really put in all the legwork for this.”Tony DiBartolomeo, Timberlane's music director, was honored with the New Hampshire Music Educator of the year award last month.