Davis Giersch

When the North Penn community reflects on the choral program at North Penn High School, for many alumni and local residents, one person comes to mind. Perhaps it's his nearly 50 years of background in music education. Maybe it's because 29 of those years were spent at North Penn directing nearly 30 spring musical ensembles and more than 100 musical groups during his tenure. While these are just a few of the many impressive accomplishments that Dr. Davis Giersch has achieved, those who know him best speak not of his accolades, but of his passion for music and his ability to bring simple notes on a piece of paper to life in such a way that's inspiring, humbling and truly unforgettable.

Dr. Davis Giersch received his BS in Music Education at Penn State University in 1968. He taught music for two years in the Norristown Area School District until 1970 when he returned to Happy Valley and worked as an instructor from 1970-1974 and an assistant professor from 1974-1979 at Behrend College of Penn State. During this time, Davis earned his Master of Arts in Music Theory and Composition at Penn State in 1971 and directed music groups including the Behrend College of Penn State Chorus and Band.

It was in 1979 that Davis Giersch began his beloved journey as chorus and music teacher at North Penn High School where he faithfully remained until his retirement in 2009, with the exception of a year-long hiatus from 1999-2000 when he worked as a Secondary Music Specialist at Temple University. At the start of Davis's first year of teaching at North Penn, the chorus consisted of less than 25 members. Throughout the 1979-1980 school year that number doubled, then tripled, until finally reaching 100 members by the end of the year. "Of course, some years later the North Penn Chorus would reach nearly 300 members," said Davis Giersch. "But the growth that first year and hitting our goal of 100 members is something I'll always remember."

Davis hit the ground running at North Penn, founding and directing many vocal groups during his tenure including the Concert Choir, Chambers Singers, Jazz Ambassadors and Free Spirits Show Choir. He trained and traveled with students to compete at the district, regional, state and national chorus level. Davis served as the Department Chair of the Music Department and directed nearly 30 spring musical ensembles with the North Penn Theatre Department.

Dr. Davis Giersch composed about one hundred pieces for the band, orchestra and chorus during and beyond his time at NPHS. He also instituted the singing of the "Hallelujah Chorus" each year at NPHS's Winter Concert, which has been taught to the chorus for decades. During the performance, choral alumni from North Penn are invited to join current chorus members on the risers to sing the historic hymn, a tradition which still lives on today.

Davis was awarded the Seniors' Choice Award at NPHS in 1996, Teacher of the Year at NPHS in 1999 and received the North Penn School District Superintendent's Honor Roll Award in 2009. He was also named Community Person of the Year by the North Penn B'nai B'rith in 1996.

Outside of the high school, Davis created and directed the Schoolhouse Singers, a community youth group consisting of children ages nine to 12 in the North Penn area who put on shows including Annie Get Your Gun and the Wizard of Oz. He was also the founder of the Adirondack Chorus Camp, a week-long summer camp for high school students on the east coast held at Lake George in Silver Bay, NY. During his time as a music educator, Davis Giersch directed the Emmanuel Church Choir, the Erie Symphonic Singers and the Erie Philharmonic Chorus in Erie, PA. He worked as a cooperating teacher at West Chester University and Temple University and served as assistant conductor to the North Penn Symphony Orchestra. Davis also spent time volunteering for charities including Meals on Wheels and Big Brothers of America.

After retiring from North Penn High School in 2009, Davis Giersch spent some of his time as a part-time instructor at both the University of the Arts in 2010 and on-and-off at West Chester University from 2010 to 2015. Although Davis claims to be "officially" retired from his career as a music teacher, he still volunteers as conductor for the Laymen Playmen in Hatfield and director of the Mozart Singers in Silver Bay, NY.

Dr. Davis Giersch taught hundreds of award-winning, gifted vocalists throughout his years at North Penn, however, it's not the ones that went on to perform on broadway or record chart-topping songs that captured his heart. "Of course I had a very close relationship with the students that I taught and trained so intensely," said Giersch. "But it's the ones that would sit in the second or third row, the quiet ones... those are the ones I miss the most."

Davis strived to be more than just a teacher, but a mentor, a friend and a confidant to his students. "I think sometimes people get caught up in asking themselves, 'What do I need to do to be a successful teacher?' Sometimes, they forget to ask, 'What do the students need?'" said Davis.

"Some students needed a math tutor, some needed a father, some needed a kind word or a compliment... some just needed a push in the right direction," Giersch said. Davis made it a point to do more than just teach his students about music, and the lasting impression that he made in the lives of his former students certainly proves that to be true.

"I was fortunate to be at the ground floor of the 1979-1980 NPHS Chorus explosion that Dr. Giersch single handedly made happen," said Lisa Ecklund-Andrey, NPHS class of '81 and former student of Davis Giersch. "We had an amazing leader that gave us this feeling of belonging. He created a safe haven for all of us that were so fortunate to be under his tutelage."

Davis Giersch was known for inviting any student who walked by the chorus room to join his class for a few minutes or even an entire rehearsal. Students would spend study halls and sometimes even skip their lunch just to sit in on one of Dr. Giersch's classes.

"It didn't matter if you were in the general choir or in every vocal group at NPHS, Dr. Giersch had a natural ability to connect with his students through music and compassion," said Diana Allen, class of 2011 and former student of Davis Giersch.

Davis Giersch still keeps in touch with many of his former students, whether it's an occasional lunch date, attending one of their performances or even running into them at the mall. "Sometimes I'll be out somewhere and hear in the distance, 'Hi Dr. Giersch!'" he explained. Even if he doesn't recognize the former student, he will always give an enthusiastically humble hello to anyone who reaches out.

Dr. Davis Giersch was a trailblazer for the choral department and a true symbol of North Penn pride. When reflecting on his favorite memories at NPHS, he noted "the constant support from the administration, teachers, staff, students and parents of North Penn." Although not an alumnus of NPHS himself, Davis and his wife Carol have two sons, Nathan and Jason, who both attended the North Penn School District at Gwyn-Nor Elementary, Penndale Middle School, Pennbrook Middle School and finally North Penn High School. In fact, two of Davis's fondest memories at North Penn were when his son, Jason, walked into a NPHS faculty meeting as a fellow teacher and colleague and when his son, Nathan, received wonderfully kind words from the NPHS tennis coach along with the MVP award.

"Dr. Giersch is an immensely gifted and kind man," said Lyssa Manning, NPHS class of 2010 and former student of Davis Giersch. "I believe that I speak for the musical community at North Penn High School and the community as a whole when I say that we are immeasurably better for having had the honor of enjoying a talent like Dr. Giersch's in our schools and in our lives."