AU launches five-year music and education program

Music program director says focus will be on teaching music to at-risk kids

AU launches five-year music and education program

A practice room in the Katzen Arts Center. 

At the beginning of the fall semester, small posters appeared on bulletin boards in the Katzen Arts Center. Their purpose: to advertise the new five-year degree music and education program offered through the Department of Performing Arts and the School of Education.

Students in the program will graduate with a master’s degree in teaching and a bachelor’s degree in music, said music program director Nancy Snider, who crafted the new program alongside School of Education lecturer Carolyn Parker.

“We don’t want to emulate the big state schools,” Snider said. “We had to ask what music education in the 21st century looks like, and more specifically, what should 21st century music education in a liberal arts setting like AU’s look like?”

Parker said Snider has designed a “boutique” program that will prepare students to be music educators that fit the “diversity we see in schools today.” The new program launched this fall, and there is one student currently enrolled, according to Snider. Snider’s goal is to get at least three students enrolled per graduating class.

Senior Daniel Sohn, a current student in the music program, said the degree is a welcome addition to the department.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a music and education program,” Sohn said. “[It’s a] neat hybrid that will hopefully convince more students to join our program.”

The five-year program allows students to focus on nontraditional forms of teaching music to low-income, at-risk kids. It’s an initiative Snider is calling “Reach to Teach,” though she hasn’t coined the title just yet.

“I think this [program] will benefit K-12 students who haven’t had access to music education,” Parker said. “Most high-need schools tend to cut arts programs.”

AU’s music program has already been partnering with music education programs such as Sitar Arts Center in Dupont Circle and S’Cool Sounds, which works with children in New York City and Nairobi. The new five-year program is a long-term initiative that will immerse AU students in music education service, Snider said.

Junior music student Oliver Hunter has been volunteering with Sitar since his freshman year. He said working with Sitar Arts Center connected his education with his service.

“Sitar has been an incredible experience that has really ingrained core skills and values into me that will last a lifetime,” Hunter said.

Snider said these internships are intrinsic to the program because they will provide students with the chance to build core skills and values needed to teach music to diverse students whose schools don’t have music programs.

“My dream is that while students are getting their bachelor of arts in music, they have internships with these service programs,” Snider said. “When they get their master’s, they have a fellowship with D.C. public schools and can keep serving through their music.”

By interning throughout the program, AU students will receive teaching experience by sharing something they love, and kids in D.C. will earn music skills that they may not have received in school, Snider said. The program will create “total musicians” who can learn across borders and teach across borders, Snider said.

Parker said this program “won’t just be for the marching band teacher,” but rather for the students who want to focus on education issues from a broader perspective.

Students who will benefit most from the program are ones who are “interested in service [and] education policy” and who want to “give back” and “share joy,” Snider said.

The complexity of liberal arts students have changed, Snider said, which is why she thinks the degree program will be beneficial.

“We need to … keep our fingers on the pulse of the students of today,” Snider said.

This article originally appeared in The Eagle's October 2018 fall print edition.

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