Sumner Truax, '11

Sumner Truax

It’s safe to say that the Lawrence music education program has influenced me at virtually every turn since I matriculated in 2007. I came into LU as a BA major, having been rejected from the BM program, and pretty sure that I was going to get some sort of degree in the college and play as much jazz saxophone as I could. During my time at Lawrence, I had the privilege of studying with some professors who not only reshaped the way I view the saxophone and music, but also exposed me to a world of exciting, engaging, and meaningful music making I had never previously known.

After finally passing my qualifying exam at the beginning of my junior year and becoming a performance major, I began to think about adding an education major because it seemed like a smart thing to do. I figured, “I like kids, I’ll probably like teaching band.” After taking a pedagogy class, I was completely hooked. Teaching became a complex combination of performing, preparing, communicating, problem solving, and coaching. The rehearsal process ceased to be a haze, and I could clearly see specific techniques conductors were using to solve issues. I began to look at my lessons in a new way, seeing how things were simplified so that I could succeed; observing teachers at other schools became endlessly fascinating (watching Cheryl Meyer, a local general music teacher, effortlessly manage 25 kindergarteners remains one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen); figuring out how to work with LU freshman in aural skills and theory classes became an engaging puzzle.

As I got deeper into the music education program at LU, I realized that in addition to learning about music, becoming a better musician, and becoming a better teacher, I was becoming a better thinker. I started to look at problems from various angles, and distill complex issues into simple, coherent pieces and communicate them clearly. The LU music education program fostered a deeper love and appreciation for music and art than I ever could have imagined. It instilled in me a sense that as educators, it is our duty to ensure that, even if they only get it for a second as kindergarteners, or in middle school band or orchestra, or high school choir, students experience the joy that comes from interacting with music at a deep level. It’s a joy that I am fortunate enough to experience on a regular basis, and it’s a joy that we are obligated to share with others.

After Lawrence, I attended the Eastman School of Music where I received a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance and literature as well as a certificate in Arts Leadership. While at Eastman, I had the opportunity to work with college students in one-on-one saxophone instruction, as well as use some of the other extra-musical skills I had gained from Lawrence to do grant writing and fundraising for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hochstein School of Music & Dance. It is a huge honor and a privilege to be back at Lawrence to teach saxophone and work with the same incredible colleagues who inspired me to become a teacher in the first place.

Shauna McFaul, '13

Shauna McFaul

I am currently the Director of Bands and Elementary Music Specialist at Escuela Bella Vista in Maracaibo, Venezuela. In December of 2013, I completed my student teaching and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Trombone Performance and Instrumental Music Education, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish.

During my time at Lawrence, I was involved in a wide variety of activities that have supported my development as an educator and as a human being. I performed with a wide variety of musical ensembles, from the Symphony Orchestra to LUJE to the Heavy Metal Ensemble of Lawrence University. All of these performance experiences expanded my horizons as a performer and a listener and provide me with a wider range of tools to reach my students. I also served as both a member and the Chair of the Conservatory Dean's Advisory Council and as a student representative to the Faculty Committee on Curriculum in order to gain a glimpse into the workings of the administrative side of education.

At the school where I currently teach, I am working to expand understanding and acceptance of music as a core curricular subject. I designed and delivered a professional development session entitled "Music in the Core Classroom" to share the importance of music as a catalyst for child development and the ease with which core teachers can enhance their lessons, and subsequently student learning, by including music in their instruction. Additionally, I am working to re-write the music curriculum to include cross-curricular connections in music, and my goal for the coming school year is to work with the homeroom teachers to facilitate the inclusion of music concepts in their classrooms.

Over the past year, I have been able to provide my students with amazing musical opportunities and helped them experience music in completely new ways. Seeing their joy and success is what drives me to continue growing as a person, a musician and as an educator. That desire to grow and explore is the Lawrence Difference and it is why I am so thankful every day that my experiences at Lawrence have enabled me to pursue my passions anywhere in the world and under any circumstances. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Eli Grover, '11

Eli Grover

I teach band and general music in the Appleton Area School District at Einstein Middle School and Classical Charter School.  I graduated from Lawrence University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Instrumental and General Music Education and recently received the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE) Early Career Educator Award from the Lawrence University Teacher Education Program.  I include body percussion, buckets, plungers, Balinese Gamelan and Jazz Band into my band and general music to give the students a well-rounded and highly musical experience. I learned many of these things from my time at LU, including a solid foundation in the band and string instruments, but most importantly I learned to have an open mind about how to approach music in general in the classroom setting. 

At Lawrence I was immersed in an environment with creative and passionate minds for music, best exemplified by my experience with Body Percussion and Balinese Gamelan.   In my sophomore year we started a body percussion group that transcribed music from other body percussion groups and non-body percussion music and eventually traveled to San Francisco for the International Body Music Festival. I have since taken those techniques and applied it in my classroom and during my practicum experiences while I was a student.

I was in the Gamelan Cahaya Asri (LU Student Gamelan) and learned gamelan and kecak (monkey chant).  In the group students learned by rote from our teacher Pak Dewa, and I have applied some of the pieces directly in my classroom. Most importantly, I also worked to teach like Pak Dewa: kindly, compassionately, energetically and with a great flow, connecting with each student and the group as a whole. 

The Lawrence Music Education department offered rigorous classes that challenged me to think in new ways and learn so much about education.  I was involved with the Heavy Metal Ensemble of LU (HMELU), and many other ensembles including orchestra, band, choir and chamber groups.  I was able to attend numerous world music concerts, guest artist, Jazz, classical and many more.  Overall, I was constantly engaged in musical creativity, performance and challenged so that I was wholly set up to begin teaching in a world where I need to be creative and engaging every day in a perpetually changing educational environment.

Mary Kate Smith, '12

Mary Kate Smith

It seemed at a young age Mary Kate Smith already was destined to be a teacher. Volunteering as a fourth grader on weekends to help her teacher with a class for pre-kindergarten students, it was clear what path her career would follow.

Sixteen years later, Smith’s passion for teaching burns as bright as ever. The recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholarship, Smith spent the 2013-14 academic year as a teaching assistant in Germany.

“Teaching has been my main focus for as long as I can remember,” said Smith, a senior double degree recipient with majors in German, instrumental music education and violin performance from Charlottesville, Va.  “I’ve always thought about teaching math or German or music. I’ve just always wanted to teach.”

She completed her student-teaching certification in the Whitefish Bay school district, teaching orchestra at both the high school and middle school level. She also spent four years teaching in the Lawrence Academy of Music’s String Project and gave private violin lessons.

“I’ve had lots of tutoring job as well,” said Smith, who first began learning German as a five-year old from an au pair from Germany who lived with her family for a year. Six years at a Waldorf School, where basic German was part of the curriculum, further exposed her to the language.

Her Fulbright Scholarship took her to Germany for the fourth time. She first visited in 2007, spending a year in Berlin after graduating from high school as a participant in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. She returned in 2010 as part of Lawrence’s “Berlin: Experiencing a Great City” course and spent the fall of 2011 on the IES Berlin off-campus study program.

“As a German, violin performance and music education triple major, Mary Kate is the quintessential Lawrence student,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German and Smith’s academic advisor. “Her love of German culture, particularly those parts of it connected to Berlin, has made her an enthusiastic German student, aided by her spectacular language abilities and her exceptional skills as a reader of literary and other cultural texts. She is a great credit to Lawrence and will be a terrific representative of American culture in the tradition of the Fulbright awards.”

Smith says her current “rough plan” is to get a few years of classroom experience before going to graduate school with the ultimate goal of teaching at the university level.

“One of the challenges I’m facing is deciding if I want to set up life here or in Germany,” said Smith, a former five-year member of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of Lawrence’s student chapter of the American String Teachers Association.

“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to receive a Fulbright Scholarship,” Smith added. “I’m excited about this incredible opportunity to learn and grow and I’ll do my best to live up to the what the Fulbright represents.”

Greg Siegrist, '13

Greg Siegrist

Greg Siegrist completed a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in instrumental and general music education.  In the summer of 2013, Greg taught instrumental music in Haiti, spending two weeks teaching at Cemuchca Music Institute and three weeks in Cange.  He conducted instrumental ensembles, instructed beginning and experienced woodwind, brass, and percussion students in ensembles and sectionals, taught private lessons, and led workshops in jazz performance and theory.  In addition, he offered sessions in the care and maintenance of wind instruments.

In the academic year prior to his departure for Haiti, Greg studied the Creole language with Professor Janet Anthony, study that proved invaluable to Greg in his teaching of Haitian students.  In addition, he studied instrumental pedagogy with Professor Steven Jordheim, and he completed Lawrence’s sequence of courses in instrumental and rehearsal techniques. This background enabled Greg to meet the many challenges he faced as a young teacher in a foreign country.

In reflecting on his experiences in Haiti, Greg writes, “I didn't realize how much I knew about the other brass and percussion instruments until I was placed in front of a band and had to teach the basics of each instrument. As a beginning teacher, I gained experience in instructing young musicians in their lifelong pursuit of music.  I was given the opportunity to implement all the pedagogical techniques I obtained from my time at Lawrence University in a real-world situation.  I was able to teach under circumstances that allowed me complete freedom to teach as I saw necessary for the progress of my students, which is in itself an invaluable experience for a beginning music teacher.  Above all, I gained perspective of the world I live in, personal experiences I'll never forget, and lifelong friendships that span across the globe.  I traveled across mountains, peeked over the edge of the historic citadel of Cap-Haitian, conducted a band performing a Michael Jackson medley to an overcrowded church, and established friends who live across America, Haiti, and Europe.  I went to Haiti with the knowledge that I would be teaching music, but I didn't realize just how much the students and people I encountered in Haiti would teach me.”