Dr. Valerie Cisler
professor and chair, Department of Music and Performing Arts, 308.865.8118

UNK- Dan Hays, an award-winning vocal music teacher at Elkhorn High School, has been presented the 2008 Gary Thomas Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Music and Performing Arts. 
       “The purpose of the award is to recognize our graduates who have made significant contributions in music,” said Dr. Valerie Cisler, UNK professor and chair of the Department of Music and Performing Arts. Dr. Thomas was a member of the UNK music faculty and the department chair for many years.
       Hays, who graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in music performance and a bachelor of arts degree in theatre, is a member of the Actor’s Equity Union, and before he began teaching, made his living as a professional performer for many years. He has worked as a choreographer, musical director and an actor.
       According to Dr. Cisler, Hays has acted in television commercials and specials; acted, choreographed and written the musical score for movies; sung radio jingles; danced and sung in industrial shows; and toured all over the country. In addition, Hays has directed for professional theaters, community theaters, and high school and college theaters in many states.
       One of the original staff members of the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater (now the Theater for Young People at the Rose), he was also a member of the production team for Omaha’s longest and most successful professional production, “Beehive.” 
       He began his high school teaching career at Blair High School, a position he held from 1995-2005. Along with being a vocal music teacher at Elkhorn High School, Hays teaches musical theatre performance courses for Dana College in Blair. He has also taught drama at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and directed the Nebraskats, the UNK show choir. 
       “He is a highly sought after clinician, conductor, director, choreographer and adjudicator,” Dr. Cisler said. 
       Further, he has served as an artist-in-schools/communities for the Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri Arts Councils for many years. 
       His work has earned him numerous awards, including the Outstanding Music Educator award from the Nebraska Music Educators Association, the Teacher of the Year from Show Choir Camps of America, a Golden Apple and the Sertoma Club’s Service to Mankind award. 
       Hays also has a master of arts degree in dramatic arts from UNO.