Daria Mason, Payson High School marching and concert band director, vocci, show and mixed choirs director, Rim Country Middle School choir director, and Payson Choral Society director — not to mention wife, mother and host to a foreign exchange student — has been inducted into the Arizona Music Educators Association Hall of Fame by winning the O.M. Hartsell Excellence in Music Teaching Award.
On Jan. 31, Mason, along with her husband of 26 years, Mike, their youngest son John, supporters from the Payson Choral Society and PUSD Superintendent Ron Hitchcock attended a luncheon at which the Arizona Music Educators Association presented her with her award.
“It was special she was recognized in front of her peers,” said Hitchcock. “I thought it was wonderful to be there to bask in her glory.”
Naila Erwin, a member of the Payson Choral Society and official photographer, attended and took photos.
“She was nominated for the award by the music director in the Show Low district,” said Erwin. “Laura Scholten was so impressed with Daria that even though she is outside the district, she felt moved to nominate her.”
For Erwin, it is Mason’s sense of humor that makes her such a wonderful teacher/director. She told this story:
“One evening Daria rushed in a few minutes late because of a meeting at school. As she stepped up to the director’s podium and lifted her metal music stand, the base and stem came apart, clattering loudly to the floor. Still holding the music rack in both hands she shrugged and said, ‘You know what? My whole day has been like this! If rehearsal this evening goes anything like this broken music stand, we’ll all just have to deal with it. OK?’
“We laughed in sympathy and proceeded to have a good rehearsal because she didn’t let the problems of the day put her in a bad mood.”
John Landino, the president of the Choral Society, agreed with Erwin’s appreciation of Mason’s humor.
“Daria has been our director since 2006 and are we lucky to have such a special person,” Landino said. “Only about a third of the members can read music well, so Daria has designed the rehearsals to bring out the best in all of our members. Our practices are hard work, but she brings along her own humor as well.”
Mason has an impressive history in music. She graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in music flute performance. From 1984 until 1997, she was a freelance musician in the San Diego Light Opera Orchestra, director of the Youth and Children’s Music and Handbell Ministries for the First United Methodist Church in Escondido and the director of audience development for the City of Escondido Performing Arts Center and a music specialist for the Ramona Unified School District and teaching general music as well as the assistant director of the Orange Glen High School Band.
After receiving her teaching certification and studying advanced degree classes at Northern Arizona University, Mason started her teaching career in Pine/Strawberry and Payson teaching pre-school through eighth grade students.
Mason has also taught general music, beginning and advanced band, choir, drama, art exploration, strings, African drumming, technology computer lab K-8 and English literature.
Just to mix things up, she even drove a rural school bus for four years.
During her stint at the high school, the groups received superior ratings, traveled to Hawaii to play at the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor and marched in the nationally televised Fiesta Bowl Parade.