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Chicago teacher shares love affair for music and the classroom

Chicago teacher shares love affair for music and the classroom
Chicago teacher shares love affair for music and the classroom 04:03

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In honor of Black History Month, we're highlighting various newsmakers in Chicago.

Daniel Henry is one of the co-founders of an After School Matters program. He is responsible for introducing hundreds of high schoolers to music education.

Whether they become musicians or choose a different path, Henry ensures they all leave with the same standards of excellence.

At the HHW School for the Performing Arts, one of those Hs stands for Mr. Daniel Henry. Along with two of his colleagues, Mr. Henry had a passion for teaching vocals but nowhere to do it.  

"We didn't have the resources to build our own building, and so we said we'll teach in other people's walls, and so the walls that we've landed in have been right here at After School Matters," he said. 

Twenty-four years and thousands of students later, 'this has been a marriage lasting longer than some marriages," Henry said. 

And Mr. Henry says they don't plan on breaking it off anytime soon

"I will retire when my body says it is time to slip the surly bonds of earth. That's when I will retire," he said. 

Students can come audition to study with HHW as soon as they graduate from middle school.

"We have students from all over the city, and when they come together from different backgrounds, different neighborhoods, there's a natural organic synergy that happens and they get excited about the arts," Henry said. 

"I've been here since I was 14 years old, and I'm about to turn 18 this year," said student Sierra Sims. 

Sims hasn't stopped singing with HHW since she started.

"I love watching an artist emerge from a student," Henry said. 

"I love Mr. Henry," Sims said. "He is so not only that he's funny, but he is. He's so full of experience, and he's so wise, and he knows everything.

While it's a vocal class, they go far beyond the performing arts.

"Really, I've tried to communicate to them the need to pursue excellence in whatever you do, but to see them emerge and realize that their future is in their own hands, they can choose what they want to do. They can make it happen," Henry said.

"No one wants a surgeon that doesn't know how to cut properly. No one wants a dentist that can't fill a tooth properly, and no one wants a singer that sings out of tune all the time."

Their alums end up everywhere, doing everything from singing to surgery.

"I often say, do what you want to do. I'm not trying to make an opera singer out of you, though opera is most definitely a part of the curriculum; the whole education is based on exploration," Henry said.

"And that's what we're here for. It's a collaborative effort to simply explore things that are difficult to do on the individual level. You need a group, so when you see all of that come to life, you don't ever want to retire."

The HHW School for the Performing Arts has sung internationally in front of esteemed guests and politicians. It has produced dozens of young people who've grown up to become music teachers themselves.

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