Dorothy Kittaka’s love for music began at a young age, in a rather dark place. The first melody to ever fall upon her ears sparked her intrigue and changed her life, you could say.
The notes heard were from a lone trumpet player, bellowing the same daily tune over Heart Mountain Internment Camp during World War II. This is where Kittaka, her parents and three older brothers were sent, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans. Three camps later and eventual relocation to Marengo, Ill., Kittaka’s intrigue was then ignited. Ignition sparked from Kittaka’s music teacher, in a oneroom schoolhouse.
“Mrs. Coarson played the piano and never looked at her fingers when she sang,” Kittaka said. “I decided to become just like her… I took piano lessons for 10 years with this dear lady.”
Kittaka, too, then joined the ranks of teachers with influence too grand to quantify, teaching music at Fort Wayne’s Haverhill Elementary, until retiring in 2006. “I think teaching is the most important profession in the world,” she said.
Kittaka’s awards include induction into the National Music Teachers Hall of Fame, finalist for the Indiana Teacher of the Year Award, the Indiana Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year Award, and many others. And now, she may add Tapestry Dedication Award recipient to her lengthy list.
This talented pillar of strength has, indeed, enriched our communities and our children. One effort alone as co-founder of the musical festival FAME has influenced more than 4.5 million students in celebrating multicultural arts. That’s grand influence from a journey begun by a lone trumpet’s tune.