Duluth is a community with a long tradition of strong choral ensembles in our schools from elementary to the middle and high school level, as well as in the colleges and universities in our city. We are fortunate to have top-notch community choral groups, as well.

Ordean-East Middle School (OEMS) is one of two middle schools in the ISD 709 School District in Duluth, Minnesota. We have a school enrollment of 1,075. Our site is the former Duluth East High School building and has been the city’s eastern middle school since 2012 when ISD 709 reconfigured its schools under the Red Plan from three middle schools to two. At that time, the secondary school programs moved from a seven to six period day. This impacted fine arts offerings at the middle level reducing elective choices from two classes to one. A year-long course in music is required in grades six and seven, but not in eighth. By eighth grade, the majority of students in our middle schools drop their music elective (band, choir, orchestra) and elect a language where they receive high school credit.

Mrs. Shusterich Conducting Grade 6

Mrs. Shusterich is in her fifth year at Ordean-East and has grown the position from part-time (.7 FTE with 235 singers in 2014) to over a full time position (1.2 FTE with 375 singers this year). Ben Ellison, a Duluth East High School and University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate teaches two seventh grade sections of the eleven choir classes at Ordean-East. Ben is also the choir director for grades six, seven and eight at Lincoln Park, Duluth’s western middle school.

The Ordean-East Middle School Choir program consists of three levels of choir starting in grade 6 with Beginning Choir open to all students with an interest in singing. Students meet every-other-day for 49 minutes and learn performance skills related to their voice and how to work effectively in a group. Basic music theory is studied, including treble note recognition, simple rhythms and basic music terminology. One and two-part music reading, choral rehearsal techniques and sight-singing skills are studied and assessed. Students perform two concerts per year, in December and May.

Intermediate Choir is open to all interested 7th grade students with an interest in singing. Students meet for rehearsal every-other-day for 49 minutes and study performance skills related to their voice and how to work effectively in a group. Music theory, two and three-part music reading, choral rehearsal techniques and intermediate sight-singing skills are studied and assessed. Students perform two concerts per year, in December and May.

Advanced Choir meets daily for 49 minutes. The course involves extensive study and application of music fundamentals and skills through exposure to a broad spectrum of choral literature with emphasis on performance. Music theory and vocal technique continue to be important. Students perform in several community events and two concerts per year. Students who successfully complete Advanced Choir leave with the knowledge and ability to continue into a high school choral program.

Mrs. Shusterich incorporates Kodaly, Orff and Dalcroze methodologies into her choral teaching and performances. She offers after-school choir and WIN (What I Need) experiences during the school day for students interested in other music-making opportunities. Some of these offerings include: ACDA-MN SSA and TTB Honor Choir preparation each Fall, UMD Junior High Honor Choir (grades 7 and 8) and Lake Superior Youth Chorus Honor Choir (grade 6) preparation each Winter, Glee Club in the Spring (grades 6, 7, and 8), and singing the National Anthem for various events through the year, most recently at the Harlem GlobeTrotters game in Duluth and at UMD Men’s and Women’s Bulldog Hockey games.

The Eighth Grade Advanced Choir frequently sings in the community at nursing homes and assisted living facilities for Veterans Day, holidays and special events. Mrs. Shusterich fosters collaborations with Duluth East High School, the UMD Music Education department, and other middle schools in the arrowhead region. Every May, the Eighth Grade Advanced Choir participates in a Middle Level Choir Festival with schools from Duluth and the surrounding area. As an example of a recent collaboration, last Spring the Ordean-East Eighth Grade Advanced Choir teamed with the Duluth East High School Choralaires and auditioned for Sing With Foreigner as part of their concert appearance in Duluth.

Every June on the last week of school, Mrs. Shusterich produces a Talent Show for each grade level—six, seven and eight—working with the students to audition, prepare and put on a fun program before summer break.

Sheila K. Shusterich, currently in her fifth year as the choir director at Ordean-East Middle School in Duluth, has been a music educator since 1981. She received her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and her Master of Arts in Education at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. For thirty-seven years, Mrs. Shusterich has been passionate about teaching and creating music with children and young adults.

Sheila began her music education career as a K-12 vocal and instrumental teacher in Littlefork-Big Falls, Minnesota, followed by a K-6 elementary music position in the Virginia, Minnesota Public Schools. After earning her Master of Arts in Education degree with an emphasis in early childhood music, Sheila continued her passion of working with students at all levels of music making, from infants and toddlers in the early childhood music programs she started in the late 1980s, to K-5 arts integration work at Chester Park Elementary Lab School and college music education methods courses and student teacher supervision at the University of Minnesota, Duluth from 1987-2004.

In 2005, Sheila began teaching K-8 vocal music in Duluth’s public schools including: Lowell Music Magnet, Homecroft Elementary, Lincoln Park Middle School, and Ordean Middle School at the former building (the current site of Duluth East High School) from 2006-2009. From 2010-2014, Mrs. Shusterich taught K-8 music at Holy Rosary School, one of Duluth’s parochial schools. Sheila enjoys working with middle school students and thrives on the energy and spirit they bring into the classroom as they express themselves creatively.

In addition to being a member of ACDA, Sheila belongs to to several local, state, and national music organizations and has served on local arts boards including: John S. Duss Music Conservatory, Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra and currently the Lake Superior Youth Chorus. She is a life member of the National Federation of Music Clubs having served as the Minnesota Federation of Music Clubs president, the NFMC Biennial Student/Collegiate Scholarship Chair and the NFMC Arts Division Choral Music Chair. For twenty-one years, Sheila directed the Choristers, a children’s choir at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

She was honored to receive an ACDA-MN ACE Award (Advocate for Choral Excellence) for her work with the Ordean Middle School Choir program in 2009. In 2017, Sheila was named an I.S.D. 709 Teacher of the Year as part of the Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year program. In November, the Ordean-East Middle School Choir was invited to sing at the ACDA-MN Fall Conference.

Sheila and her husband Fred reside in Duluth and have two grown sons.



Choir 6 Performing in the December Concert 2016


Grade 8 Choir Soloists in the December Concert 2016


Advanced Eighth Grade Choir December Concert – 2016


Ordean-East choirs perform in the school gymnasium since there is not a performance space that can accommodate all of our singers and audience members.

Ordean East Middle School Choir Grade 8 singing for the Ecumen-Lakeshore Veterans Day Program, November 2017.


Ordean-East Choir 7-8 ACDA-MN TTB Honor Choir Members


UMD Junior High School Honor Choir Students from Ordean-East, January 2018


Grade 8 Advanced Choir Performance for UMD Music Education Majors, 2018


Choir 8 Performance for UMD Music Education Majors, January 2016


OEMS Choir 7-8 ACDA-MN 2018 Fall Conference Performance


Ordean-East members of the 2018 ACDA-MN SSA Honor Choir 2018