Classical MPR's new Teacher Feature highlights the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.
Elementary/High School Orchestra Director
Alexandria School District #206 (Jefferson High School)
Who or what inspired you to become a music teacher?
There have been so many people who have inspired me to be a music teacher. Every music teacher I've ever had has been marvelous. They've all been so unique from one another and so inspiring in their own ways.
Where did you go to college?
Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D.
What would you say is your primary instrument?
My primary instrument in college was French Horn. My secondary instrument was voice. I also focused on organ and cello hence the reason I now teach orchestra.
What grade levels do you teach? Do you direct any ensembles?
Grades 5 and 6, and grades 10 to 12 orchestra. I direct the two high school orchestras and the top chamber orchestra. The two high school orchestras are string orchestras, but twice a year, we bring in the band students to create two full orchestras. I also co-direct the 5th and 6th grade orchestra.
How does music education help or enhance other curricular areas?
I strongly believe that music is one of the few opportunities in school where students not only exercise their minds, but they are given the chance to grow as sensitive souls. Collaboration and critical thinking are two aspects that the students of today need in order to be successful in the coming world. In my mind, music is one of the greatest avenues to learning these complex skills.
I personally struggle with the idea that music is in school just to "enhance" other curricular areas. We've all heard about the studies being done that say music is important because it helps a student's math or science scores. While I believe that those are very important subjects in the curriculum, I also believe that it doesn't really matter how music helps those subjects. I believe that music is important enough on its own, and schools that truly value the music within it find themselves on a successful path.
What's one of the most memorable moments you've had as a music teacher?
Much of what we do as musicians and educators can only be measured in "spiritual" or "memorable" moments for both us and the audience.
Personally, one of my favorite moments occurred several years ago at a school ensemble festival. One of the pieces the students prepared for this particular festival was a Sandra Dackow arrangement of Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium." We had spent months prior to this performance discussing what it takes to bring the piece to "the next level." We had been pushing to make this piece a true artistic experience for the audience as well as for the musicians. This happened to be one of those rare moments in music education where the students were completely invested in the experience for the entire performance of a piece. When we had finished, I couldn't even see the students any longer; tears were running in a steady stream down my face and the same was happening for many of the students.
The adjudicator of the festival came forward to work with the students and to conduct straight through the piece a second time. Afterwards, he said to the kids, "I've nothing to say to you. Thank you for the privilege of conducting you."
There have been so many wonderful moments in my years in music education, but this one seems to stick out in my mind. The students were able to lift the music off of the page and elevate it to a spiritual experience. This is our constant goal.
Do you participate in music outside the classroom?
I am the music director for the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra, a regional orchestra for the Alexandria Lakes Area. A few of us in the area formed the orchestra five years ago. We have approximately 60 musicians in the orchestra and have a fantastic time making music together. I also play occasionally in church, where I'm a substitute organist and I also play in a brass quintet.
If you were to host an on-air program at Classical MPR, what would be the first piece of music you'd play?
I believe I might choose Mahler's Symphony No. 5. I thought about hundreds of pieces while contemplating this question and I kept coming back to the massive Mahler 5.
What is it about that piece that makes it one of your favorites?
It's difficult to listen to this piece and not get sucked into its depths, its beauty, its terror, its strength and its enormity.
What I love about this piece (and most of Mahler) is that no one person gets the same thing out of it. Everyone seems to have a different experience and most people feel pulled through an emotional roller coaster. It truly takes the listeners for a ride!
If I wasn't able to play the whole piece, I would choose either the second or fourth movements. I love the fire and turmoil of the second movement, but few things compare to the sheer beauty and longing of the strings in fourth movement.
Listen to Classical MPR in Alexandria on 90.9 FM.
Nominate a music teacher for Classical MPR's Music Teacher Feature
As part of Classical MPR's educational programming, we are highlighting the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.
Is there a music teacher in your community that the Classical MPR audience should know about? Submit this form to tell Classical MPR about him or her: