Prof. Grutzmacher: Good evening, good afternoon, good morning, depending upon where you are in the world. Um, this is a complete online program, uh, there is no residency on campus, uh, although it’s interesting and [unintelligible 00:04:18] see our graduates travel to campus and cross the stage on that important commencement day. Uh, we really put this together, first of all, to make it practical, to make it a degree program in which you are delving deeper into all of the aspects that are important to music education that you can take and practically apply in your classroom to improve your teaching, to improve your students’ learning. So you have ten courses, the courses included, um, a world music course, include America’s music, a music theory course, three different, uh, courses in pedagogy, general music, instrumental, um, and choral.
It includes two inquiry courses in which you’re delving into research in our field, and the ten courses also include our capstone, which is the final course in the curriculum. And the capstone is like, um, a Master’s thesis, but it’s a Master’s thesis that is very practical in its goals and objectives. We really want this to reflect what you need in your classroom, what you need for your curricular structure in your program. You can actually choose of our methods courses two of them instrumental, choral, or general, and what’s nice about this is you take one course at a time. They’re in seven-week modules, so you take one course the first half of the semester, you have a week off and then you begin the next course. So the — within the 15 week semester you’re able to get two courses completed. So you can finish this in less than two years, or around two years, if you’re taking these each semester.
So we have two in the fall, two in the spring, two in the summer that you can complete. You can enter the program at the beginning of fall semester, you can enter the program at the beginning of spring semester. So we have several entry points. What I want to focus on today is this capstone project, because it’s so important I think, and really demonstrates what our students learn within the program. Each of our courses requires a project. But from the very beginning, you start thinking about what it is you would like to do for that final culminating project. So each term you do a project, you have an e-portfolio in which you — that’s your repository for your projects, so that the teachers can also go into your e-portfolio to find out who you are, how you write, what you write about, what is of interest to you, and as you go along you also journal.
You journal about what you learned in each course, so that we can see your progress, and you begin to write about what you want to do for that final capstone project, so that when you get to that point, now you’ve accomplished all of this learning. You’ve learned more about music history and how it can be applied in a classroom, more about music theory and its application, more about pedagogy, more about world music, more about the music of our country. And from that you choose a topic that you’re really, really interested in. The last course is a twelve weeklong course, so it really encompasses the entire semester. I think we can move on to the next slide.
Annie: Alright, thank you Professor. So with that, you know, getting to know a little bit about the program and if you have any questions for us at this moment, let us — submit your question into the Q & A box and we will address it at the very end. So with that, I just want to invite our graduates for a panel discussion, ’cause we have four questions here that we often receive from prospective students, and we would love to hear their perspectives. So I want to welcome Bonnie and Shannon on the phone.
Bonnie, um, to start off, would you like to say hello, introduce yourself before we start?
Bonnie: Yeah, hey everybody! It’s nice to be here. As I — I’m from Katy, Texas, and I have, um, been teaching music — this is my 19th year, uh, I taught 14 years in an urban, suburban district, and now I am in a suburban district in Katy.
Annie: Alright, thank you. And Shannon, now would you like to say hello, introduce yourself as well?
Shannon: Sure, hi everyone. My name is Shannon Leighton. You can just call me Shannon. I am in my 7th year teaching at an urban charter school in central Massachusetts. Um, I really loved doing this program, so I’m very excited to be with you all today.
Annie: Thank you, great. So Bonnie and Shannon, um, first question that we — that we want to ask you is, what motivated you to pursue an online Master of Music in Education, especially the fact that, you know, you guys have quite a few years under your belt already? Maybe we’ll start with Shannon?
Shannon: Sure! Um, well I decided to pursue an online degree, there were a couple things, um, about two — about three years ago my school district announced that they were, um, [unintelligible 00:10:16] to start with, but my school district announced that they were going to freeze the teachers’ salaries if you haven’t gotten your Masters yet, and at that point I was 4 years into teaching and I had been thinking about it anyways. I had actually been speaking to some colleagues about programs that they recommended and, you know, even though Massachusetts has a lot of universities here, and we have a lot of great music programs, um, I also have two very young daughters and I work full-time, and I was really, really wary of doing something that was on-campus that would take me away from my family, you know, many nights a week or — and whatnot.
So the combination of, you know, hearing from my district that I kind of needed to get on the ball, um, speaking to some fellow colleagues about programs that they recommended, one of which was the Kent State online program, and, you know, thinking about my family and what was going to be best for them and for me, was really what motivated me to do the online program.
Annie: And Bonnie, for yourself?
Bonnie: My experience in choosing to do an online Masters in music was quite similar in that, um, although I live in an area where there’s a lot of wonderful university — universities that offer excellent Masters in Music programs, I really was hesitant to do one where I was required to drive across town two or three nights a week, um, I had lots of colleagues who enrolled in those programs and as wonderful as they were, the cost of having to drive in the Houston area was pretty high in terms of just time that you could have been — spent studying, and so I found that within this program I was able to use that commuter time to the best of my ability because I didn’t have to commute. I could just immediately start on my work.
Annie: Thanks. And maybe you guys could also speak a little bit to, um, I mean Shannon you mentioned that like Kent State’s program was also mentioned. Is there anything else that kind of made you decide to choose the program at Kent State?
Shannon: Yeah, when I took a look at the course offerings and just the titles of the different courses that were offered, they were, um, not that different from a lot of the programs that I had been looking at in other schools, but I just — I really liked the idea that it was, um, I liked the topics, I liked that there was a technology component, there was a lot of music history, which I really enjoyed, some world music, and that I could choose to do general music in addition to choral music. I teach middle school — right now I teach grades four through seven, which is kind of elementary and middle school, and I have really grown to love general music, even though I kind of started as a high school choral gal, way back when, but it was the courses, and it was also the seven week format. You know, seven weeks on, one week off, seven weeks on, I really felt like it was a pace that spoke to me. I like to work fast, I like to be effective, so, um, the pace of the program as well, um, really made me decide to pursue it.
Annie: Great. Thank you. And, you know, we’re talking about an online program, um, not everyone has experienced online learning, especially at a Masters level. Are you guys able to kind of share how your program experience is like being online learning? Maybe this time we’ll start with Bonnie.
Bonnie: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I was kind of surprised at how much the personality, both of my professors and my other students, uh, came out within our interactions through the online platform. We had — a lot of times there were — the courses were set up in a way where you needed to respond to classmates, um, well think that they were saying, ’cause most of the classes involved some discussion where a response was required. And in that you really did kind of get a sense of who else was in the class with you, um, there were often times, you know, just in the course of the discussions, there were people who, you know, you really resonated with, and you were like, oh, you know, I think I’d really like to continue, um, getting to know this person professionally because they’ve got some great things to say. And so despite the fact that I thought it might be disconnected, I was surprised by how connected it was.
Annie: And Shannon, did you feel the same or did you have other thoughts to add?
Shannon: I felt the same as Bonnie. I think Bonnie and I actually had quite a few courses together, if I remember looking at the discussion posts.
Bonnie: We did, uh-huh.
Shannon: We did. And did we work on the world music project together, or I’m not remembering it?
Bonnie: I don’t remember, but it’s highly likely, ’cause there was –
Shannon: [Unintelligible 00:15:24]
Bonnie: Was it the [unintelligible 00:15:28] music?
Shannon: Yeah, which one, I’m sorry?
Bonnie: Did your group do the [unintelligible 00:15:31] music [unintelligible 00:15:32]?
Shannon: No, we did the African — we did the African music.
Bonnie: Oh yeah, mm-hm.
Shannon: But no, I felt that the experience was, you know, like what Bonnie said, I was very surprised by how connected you felt. It’s funny, I actually had a former classmate from my undergraduate program at a college in New Hampshire who joined at the same time as me. She was a few years older than me, but she actually joined the Kent State program at the same time. It was really interesting to speak with her [unintelligible 00:16:06] level. But I think Bonnie was right that you really got a sense of who you were working with and, um, and, you know, the personalities did come through, and there were people that, you know, you could — you saw their answers and you said, oh, I remember them saying this, at a previous course they had mention this as well, and — but yes, I was surprised as well, by how connected we all felt despite being, you know, thousands if not, you know, tens of thousands of miles away from each other. There was someone — I don’t think there was anyone out of the country, but across the country, definitely.
Bonnie: Right. It was really — it was good.
Annie: Nice. And Professor Grutzmacher, if you have anything to add during these times, also definitely jump on in.
Prof. Grutzmacher: It’s just fun to listen to Bonnie and Shannon talk about their experiences online because this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to create a community of learners, and it’s really important to us that our students feel that they’re in that community and that they’re not just sitting out there isolated some place. And it’s so much fun to think of teachers from all over the country, as well as — we’ve had students from all 50 states and I think four or five foreign countries. But it’s so much fun to think about all of them talking together, and communicating together, it just makes that world much smaller when you have, for example, Bonnie’s from Texas, Shannon’s from Massachusetts, they’re in classes together with people from the west coast, from the south, from Ohio, from New York, from all over the country. So I think that’s really fun, and I’m so happy to hear that they did feel to be — that they were part of that community. I know the technology class that we have online is very popular and I heard — was it you Bonnie or Shannon who remarked about the technology course?
Shannon: It was Shannon, I had mentioned it, yeah.
Prof. Grutzmacher: Yeah, and that’s — I think the course has been very, very popular. And then the world music class, in which you’re doing projects together, um, I think that has also been a really popular course among the students. And you would think, well, how do you do a group project online if you’re from all over the country? So it appears that it worked fine for both of you, yes?
Shannon: Yes, it did.
Bonnie: Mm-hm, yes. And I wanted to say that I really appreciated the fact that when we took the classes, we were with instrumental people, secondary people, elementary, early childhood, choral people, all in classes together, and so when you were in the middle of a discussion, the perspectives that those folks brought to the conversation were — well it helped us to, you know, kind of broaden our own perspectives.
Prof. Grutzmacher: Very much so. That’s good to hear.
Annie: Yeah, I’m glad too. And, I mean, with everything going on, um, one of the questions I have here is also, you know, do you have any tips on balancing your time while you’re also working and just everything going on? And this time maybe we’ll start with Shannon.
Shannon: Balancing, uh, it’s funny, I think on every — almost every single one of my e-portfolio journal entries I wrote, I’m still learning how to manage my time. Um, that was a — that was probably the hardest thing for me in this entire program was disciplining myself enough to make myself sit down after a long day of work or when the kids are, you know, put to bed and I just want to go to bed and you know, sitting down and doing the work, or making the time on the weekends. Um, I think the best thing to do is to actually schedule it in, use your Google calendar, use a written calendar, if that’s your preference.
But make sure that you’re scheduling those 12 to 15 hours a week. I mean, some people — I found that some weeks I could get it done in like 9 or 10, um, some weeks I needed that full 15, but I always made sure that every week I sat down, you know, with myself and I also sat down with my husband, because we needed to, you know, look at family stuff as well and said, okay, I need to make sure that I’m home this night, but on this night I really need to go study at the library.
Or this night I would like to sit at Panera and eat my heart’s desire of bread and do my homework as well, you know. So it was really, um, important to put that time on a calendar and hold yourself to it. It’s very hard, um, but it was completely necessary. And it — there are a lot of trip ups, at least for me there were some times where I faltered and I didn’t get the work done on time, but you know, you live and you learn, so.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s a challenge. Um, I think one important thing to balance is to have a really clear understanding of what your current work situation is, so that you can see where you might find pockets of time. Um, I also found that it was not always best for me to try to study at home, because that was where I was distracted most easily, ’cause there’d be other things that needed my attention. So it was very helpful for me to take advantage of the public libraries and study there. Sometimes you can reserve a room in those libraries. And I would carry my reading with me everywhere. One time I even read the chapters of my book in between, um, bands at a marching contest. When the judges were adjudicating I would read the next thing. But that kind of helped me balance ’cause it was something I wanted to do but I was still making progress. So you kind of have to find pockets.
Annie: For sure. And Professor did you have anything to add for this one?
Prof. Grutzmacher: I think both of these ladies, uh, expressed it very, very well. You know, this is a program in which we have established a level of rigor and we feel it’s very important, um, you know, we’re really proud of our students, like these two ladies who’ve accomplished so much and done so well, um, and we want to maintain those standards of expectation for all of our students because this is really important for your education. You know, you are paying a lot of money to get this degree and so it’s important for us that when you leave this degree, you feel that you’ve accomplished a lot, and that you’ve accomplished what you needed and wanted to accomplish.
So, I think it’s an important point to get across that it does take time, that you do have to learn to balance, and you do have to learn how to, um, establish a schedule for yourself, and I think that you need that support from the people around you too, that you’re able to accomplish this. So, um, we’ve had, uh, many, many, many graduates now from this program, and I think that the growth of this program is reflected by the fact that we’ve maintained high expectations and our students are proud of that when they graduate.
Annie: For sure. And, well with that, you know, talking about having some — very proud of the program experience, um, we want to get into the capstone projects, but just before that I will love to hear from Bonnie and Shannon in terms of, you know, can you talk about the overall journey of the capstone projects? So not [unintelligible 00:24:31] because we’ll get into the presentation, but the journey of the capstone project, um, how was it like? This time we’ll start with Bonnie.
Bonnie: Well, you know, it’s interesting because I really did have a hard time deciding what to do for my capstone, because each time I would take a course I was absolutely, completely interested in what I was learning. I think that speaks to the quality of the courses, they were very compelling. And I felt like I could have created a capstone around each of the courses, but in my very first class, the foundations class, which is the one that everybody starts with, uh, I did a paper for my e-portfolio where I talked about, um, professional development in online learning communities for music teachers. And throughout the entire journey of thinking about what I could do for my capstone project, it was just kind of in the back of my mind as something that was needed to be a part of what I ultimately did.
Um, meanwhile, you know, the courses continued and, you know, I was so eclectic in my interests that I started looking back and reflecting on my experiences, um, I’ve been an elementary music teacher for a long time, and as part of that journey I’ve spent a lot of time using children’s literature in my instruction. So I began to get very curious about what that’d look like. And, um, it just kind of all coalesced so that by the time I was ready to start thinking about what my, uh, capstone project should be and when I started doing the research, uh, class that’s available in preparation for the capstone, that’s kind of where my project kind of firmed up and took on a shape and so therefore I decided to do a, um, a program design project. I like to see how things work, I like to put structures together so that there’s a form that can be used.
That’s fascinating to me. Um, so that’s kind of how it came about.
Annie: And we’ll get into a presentation of your capstone in just a little bit. So now Shannon, um, would you like to share your journey?
Shannon: Um, sure, um, to echo again what Bonnie said, I felt the same way going through the courses that I was very interested and, um, in everything that we were learning, that the courses were of such a quality that I was very, very engaged in everything, and intrigued about what I was learning about, especially the things that I thought I knew, and then I realized, wow, I really don’t have as deep of knowledge as this. But, um, my — I had a hard time deciding as well. I have a lot of different interests, um, I kind of always wanted to do something that would be kind of inspired by my current situation, working in an urban charter school, which is — it’s not as unusual as it used to be, but — ’cause charter schools are popping up in cities more, but, um, I was very interested — the one thing that kind of made me decide on my topic was, um, helping out at the last year’s all-state and districts conference in my state, just kind of solidified — and I’ll talk about it later — but solidified for me the reasons why I chose the topic of social justice, specifically in choral music education, because that’s kind of the world I’ve lived in for a long time.
But, um, the journey getting there was, you know, every journal entry I had put down, well what are you thinking about for your capstone? There was at one point I wanted to, you know, I wanted to do a tech thing. At one point I was dead set for a very long time on doing a professional development presentation for my district, and eventually for my state. Um, so it was a little bit of a battle sometimes. I had so many — I was pulled in so many different directions, but I think that the thing that was the most important for me was the research course, was working with an advisor, so, um, the journey, it was crazy. It was all over the place and then it kind of, you know, tunnelled in towards the end, which it sounds like that might be the experience for a lot of different people. A couple of the people I spoke with said they had a similar experience as well.
Anne: Yeah, Professor Grutzmacher did you want to say something about — anything about the — from a faculty standpoint, as well I know Shannon just touched on the faculty membership, right, like and –
Prof. Grutzmacher: Yes. Well, what I do as a coordinator for the capstone, um, I research by going into their e-portfolios and pull from that the area of interest for each student. So say for example, um, for this fall, for each student who I knew was registering for the capstone, I developed, um, a document in which I could summarize their interest areas and we have a wonderful faculty who work with these students on an individual basis because each student is assigned a personal advisor for that capstone. And each of our capstone advisors have specific areas of expertise. While they’re all wonderful music educators, there would be particular areas that they have researched, that their interest is very high in that particular area. So I try to pair them, because I know when our students are heading toward capstone they change their mind a lot of times, because of the courses that they’re taking.
Each time it’s, oh, I really like this course, I think I’m going to go in this direction, and so the advisors will assist them in focusing because it’s really I think a challenge, as both Bonnie and Shannon have said, to choose one area and to focus in that area on a topic that you want to spend a semester researching and writing about. So the advisors — the job of the advisors is to help in that way. And there are students that I will help before I assign them to an advisor, because maybe it’s a student that I really want to know more about, so I make sure I’m not making a mistake, that I want to make certain that that advisor’s the right person to work with them. So that becomes a very important part of this. Um, once they start that capstone, they hit the ground running, and there’s, you know, there’s a lot that needs to be accomplished within that 12 week span of time. So it’s really important that upfront, um, they get a good start.
Annie: Yeah, for sure. Thank you everyone for addressing these top of mind questions so that we get a perspective from both of you, Bonnie and Shannon, as, you know, as graduates and as students at one point in this program. So with that, you know, um, I definitely want to get into your capstone presentations. They’re wonderful projects for sure. So again, the capstone project, as Professor Grutzmacher mentioned, it is part of the online Master’s program and students are required to design a project that’s based off of their area of interest. So Bonnie and Shannon will kind of share their presentation and what they have kind of learned, um, and hope that what you’re learning and hearing today can be also applied to your own classroom after this webinar. So, and also different types of projects, Bonnie has chosen to do a program design and Shannon has chosen to do a literature review. So now I’ll first pass it over to Bonnie and then after Bonnie will be Shannon’s presentation. So Bonnie, the floor is yours.
Bonnie: Well, I — like I said earlier — I was very interested in creating sort of a tool, um, a program design project. It is intentionally — it seems to be intentionally open-ended so that it can be tailored to the needs of the person creating it. And as my understanding grew of what a program design project really was, turns out it’s kind of a hybrid. It’s a little bit — at least in my experience, it was a little bit literature review, a lot thinking about curriculum, um, without so much of the curriculum design per se, but actually a design project, because what I ended up creating was a handbook for music instructional methods book analysis process, which is a lot of words, but basically what I wanted was a tool to assist me in the selection of children’s books or my music lessons. Um, there’s a lot of — there are lots of titles available that have extensive bibliographies and lesson plans, all based in and around the use of children’s books in the music classroom.
It’s a very popular thing to do in part because, um, you know, depending on where you’re teaching, principals kind of like to see, um, specialist teachers doing more traditional classroom things. I know when I was in my urban district, um, where they were — where my students were underachieving, a lot of times they wanted to see, well, you know, are you teaching them to read today? And I’m like, well yeah, I’m teaching music, and they were like, well, okay, you’re not reading any books. So as a young teacher, that motivated me to use books a lot. But as I got in the habit of using them I didn’t always have a way to vet the quality of the books I was using. I mean, I wanted to be able to answer questions, you know, like what music skills are being taught here and how do these books — how could they be sorted so that I’m not missing really great titles, and I’m not, you know, I’m not using titles that are less than excellent? So what I did was I set about creating some modules and, um, each module in my design, um, kind of summarizes a different type of book.
So when — like let’s say I’m looking at a book of — like let’s say Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Iza Trapani, which is one that a lot of people are familiar with. If I was gonna take it through the first module, what I would do is I would just get the basic book information, and then the second module would be where I would describe the book, and then in the third module — well in the description of the book — I’m sorry, I’m going to go back to module two. That would be like, you know, is it a rhyming book, is it a single song title book, what sort of children’s book is it? And then in module three, that’s whenever I would look at, you know, is there notation or a recording included with the book? And if so, how does the notation of the book compare to the traditional singing of the song? And then finally, in module four, it was an opportunity to create some pedagogical resources and lesson ideas. So those were the modules, but just because I took my library and sorted my books in that way, it was a lot of knowledge, but it wasn’t very useable.
So what I decided to do was create a database and I inputted these — the books in my own personal classroom library into a database and I sorted them by module, and then, um, I — after I sorted them by module I put them in collections. And those collections were then published on a website. And the website — and this is where I go back to, um, the information about, you know, the — how music teachers use media and the internet to gain information. I knew what was in my library, but I know lots of music teachers who use books in their teachings, so I wanted to create a way for teachers to access that information. So what I ended up with was a website that has searchable, um, tables in it, so you can go to the website I created, and you can search a title, and if it’s one that I’ve actually vetted already, then you can find that title and you can find out all the information that I have to date on that given book.
I also have a place on my website for people to contribute new books, because, you know, collections and bibliographies and lesson plan books, those all are finite and they don’t have the opportunity to grow and so I wanted something that was, um, dynamic in that it could grow as people added books to it. So I ended up going ahead and creating the website itself. Um, I will say that when I was talking to my advisor, he said, you know, this is a big project. And I said, yeah, yeah, I know. And he kind of — he was really great because he helped me to kind of get it to where it was a manageable size project instead of a monster of a project. That’s what I created, and I’m hoping that in the future I’m going to be able to invite people to add to it, so that there’s a working, living collection of books that have been rated and described, so that people can actually go there and find out if a book is useful for them in teaching what they’re trying to accomplish in their general music classroom. I don’t know if that was terribly clear, but that’s what I did.
Annie: Thank you Bonnie. I think, um, there’s a question asking, what is that website? Can we access it?
Bonnie: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s mcspaddenbooks.com for now. It’s mcspaddenbooks.com.
Annie: Alright. Well, thank you. And if there’s any more questions we’ll definitely address that during the Q & A session at the very end. Well for now we’ll move over to
Shannon for her presentation of her capstone, which again is based off of a topical literature review. So Shannon.
Shannon: Alrighty. So as Annie just mentioned I chose to do a literature review for my capstone. The — my decision to do a literature review — as I mentioned before, I had been, for a very long time, very set on doing a professional development project, and after speaking to my advisor for quite a bit and talking about my topic and what I was, you know, thinking of doing, we decided that if I was going to do a professional development, I really needed to have a better grasp of what I was trying to tackle. And that’s why eventually we settled on a literature review, because I could get the research done. I had some research done in the research course prior, but getting the research done, having a really kind of, you know, meat and potatoes kind of document that I could pull from if I were to turn it into a professional development presentation. So coming to a topical literature review was a bit of a process, but in the end, um, it’s on — the topic is social justice in choral music education.
And the purpose of the review was to examine current literature that was concerned with the teaching and learning of choral music through the lens of social justice. The main areas of the topic that I chose was — were the relationship between choral music education and social justice, the possible benefits of incorporating issues of social justice into choral curriculum for students and educators alike, and an examination of current efforts that were being made towards more socially just music education, specifically choral music education. My main reason for pursuing this topic, as I mentioned in the introductory section, was inspired by my students and what I’ve experienced already as a teacher. In my current position, I have seen many of my students kind of — they’ve encountered some pretty significant barriers to their musical success, um, whether it’s personal circumstances at home, um, even policies put in place by the school, or just the kind of general idea of music education curricula that a lot of America subscribes to.
My students, they themselves are often prohibited from participating in ensembles, especially instrumental, even though I focus on choral, but even instrumental, because of the cost of renting or owning instruments or, um, you know, going on trips or festivals and things like that. Also the scheduling of ensemble rehearsals in my district conflicted with in and after school study halls, pull-out services for individual education plans and extra help hours, and what it did was it forced many of my students to choose between excelling in academics and participating in the ensemble program. And I know a lot of what I just said, it doesn’t sound very much like social justice in the context that a lot of people think about it, but, um, you know, things like students lacking reliable transportation because of unstable home lives or disinterested parents, caretakers that work multiple jobs, um, you know, that started to get into the more like considering the socio-economic and the ethnic identity of my students, and the biggest thing that hit me and that made me decide on this subject was my students expressed that they didn’t really feel that their cultural or personal or even their generational music practices were represented in their choir experiences, and their music class experiences, to some extent.
Our district pretty heavily emphasizes reading music notation, just — it’s actually in our school’s charter that musical competency is one of our three main goals. The ironic — maybe not ironic, but the funny thing is for the last seven years every year I’m asked to define musical competency, and every year I’m able to give them a different answer. So it was something I considered as well but, you know, the music that I’m asked to perform for my students is traditionally, you know, Western, Canon classical music, and most of my students do not come from that world. Educating — you know, engaging my students in the music and in the practices in choir was pretty difficult because I’ve been educated in a different musical traditional than them, my teaching actually gravitated in that direction, and because of these experiences I’ve kind of realized that I was teaching a school full of children whose background and culture was vastly different from my own, and life experiences were vastly different, and understanding where they were coming from was not an easy thing for me.
So I thought by examining the subject of social justice, you know, equity and cultural relevance, and it kind of all fell under the umbrella of social justice just for the purposes of my paper. And seeking out my own task towards socially just education, those were my first steps in becoming more informed and ultimately becoming a better teacher for my students. And it’s something that I really wanted to share with my colleagues and the profession in general. I had mentioned that there was a really specific event that made me realize that this was — this was my path, and I’m just scanning my — I’m actually scanning my introductory essay on my capstone as I tell this to you, and there was an event. I went to — as I mentioned, I worked at my state’s central district and then the all-state level, um, ensemble — I worked actually chaperone of the choir for Massachusetts all-state high school choir this year, and after seeing central districts, which is all the center of Massachusetts, including [unintelligible 00:47:03] and the south near Connecticut, and the north near New Hampshire, seeing the ethic and the — just the general population of the choir, I was pretty stunned to see that in a region of our state, which is incredibly diverse, my school itself is 40% West African, children of immigrants from West Africa, the other 40% is made up of
Hispanic or Latino students, with 20%, quite literally 20%, being white or of Asian descent and other ethnicities.
I was very surprised to see, um, one African American child in the choir, uh, at the district level, and I think, um, maybe, I would say maybe a dozen in the all-state choir. And for me that spoke a lot because I come from a school where many of my students are African American, and it’s just — it’s a very different culture, um, for me coming from rural Vermont, where I grew up. But it was very different, and I was kind of wondering, why am I not seeing, you know, if we’re talking about the centre of Massachusetts, the entire central region, and the district choir, the high school district choir, all the high schools in central Massachusetts, I know these high schools. You know, I know these areas, and I know these colleagues, why are we not seeing many of these children there? All of the kids I see, they look the same. You know, to be completely frank, they are all white, or, in orchestra, they are all Asian. From certain parts of the state, you know, there’s a lot of a certain population, and I know that these are uncomfortable questions to ask, they’re uncomfortable observations to make, and what I wanted to do with my capstone was make those uncomfortable inquiries and look at why are we not having these students in these programs?
What is keeping, you know, certain students from accessing music education? Again, I specifically focused on choral, because that’s my world, but I could’ve written an entire second capstone on what I’ve observed from my instrumental colleagues and what they’ve said to me. So that was my main inspiration for my capstone. I’m actually waiting to hear back — I know I mentioned that I wanted to do this as a professional development, I’d actually — after some thought I had — I actually applied to run a session at the Massachusetts all-state conference next year. Rather than chaperone the choir I’m going to try and run a conference session on this topic and bring some of these more uncomfortable questions to the surface. It’s something I’m very passionate about and I’m very excited to have made this decision. I feel like it’s one of those kind of true life calling moments where you realize, wow, okay, this is what I — this is my mission. This is why I’m doing this right now. And making music more accessible, making it more of a presence, um, in the lives of our — of all of our students, no matter where they come from, no matter their backgrounds or their ethnicity, or their income, or whatnot. That was something that really spoke to me and that is why, um, I decided to do social justice in choral music education.
Annie: Thank you Shannon and Bonnie, both. So now I’m going to get into the Q & A. I will like to ask, this is a question for more Bonnie and Shannon, um, so depending on who wants to answer this question first, how — can you describe a little bit how did you engage with your mentors during, especially the capstone project, ’cause especially, you know, you guys weren’t sure about the topic, but how — and given that this is an online program, how did you engage with them?
Bonnie: Yeah, I can answer that. We exchanged cell phone numbers, and we would check-in at least once a week, sometimes more, both through text and cell phone conversations, and they were very valuable times. Most of the time we would set an appointment, but if something came up and I needed something, I was free to text or call as needed, and Dr. [Doling 00:56:01], who was my advisor, was wonderful to get back with me [as, you know 00:56:08], we could. And it was a pleasure to get to know him. He is awesome.
Annie: Nice. I don’t know, Shannon did you have a different approach to staying in touch with your mentor?
Shannon: I mean, we did talk a lot on the phone, um, we did — one thing that we made sure to do was, you know, if — especially at the beginning, I would — what we did was we actually — I created a Google doc, and I kind of was keeping notes and writing down ideas and when — my advisor was Susan [unintelligible 00:56:39], and when, you know, she had a moment or two I’d just shoot her a quick text and say hey, can you please check out my notes on the Google doc. Just get back to me whenever you can. I would — I also let her know what my study schedule for my capstone was, ’cause I — even though it was during the summer, it started towards the end of the school year my capstone is — everything was very — I had to really schedule the time in ’cause the end of the year was pretty crazy. And so to make some of those, you know, personal benchmarks of, you know, get this first research question answered, get this first question answered, I really did lean on her quite a bit, you know, to review some of my questions and to really give me the honest feedback of, no, this is really vague, you need to please make it more specific and whatnot.
But, you know, we also talked, not extensively, but we also talked a little bit about, you know, is everything going okay this week? Are you feeling overwhelmed? You know, she would — she and I were a good fit because I’m kind of an emotional person. I was very emotionally attached to this process, and she’d — she mentioned to me that her areas of expertise were her — her research interests at least were — included motivation and so she was really a great fit for me and helping me, you know, stay, you know, encouraged when I — when things got really difficult, or I felt really stuck, or kind of like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. So as Bonnie had mentioned, yeah, the texting and the calling back and forth, checking in, but also, you know, on a more personal level making sure that the process was going okay, and if extra help was needed, I knew that at least my advisor was there. Anytime I texted or called, you know, she got back to me and helped me out in that way too, so.
Annie: And this question, it’s not specific to the capstones, but it’s more so your overall –the graduates’ perspective of how the projects were like. Were they tough? We mentioned quite a bit on having projects, so how tough were they? Maybe we can hear both from the graduates and also Professor your perspective from a faculty standpoint?
Shannon: I’ll go first. Shannon will go first. I will say that this was the hardest, the hardest thing that I’ve ever done academically in my life. It was, um, I lived and breathed it. From even I would say probably even from the research course, because I was — I really wanted to — I was really dead set on “getting it right.” I really wanted to make sure that what I did had a purpose, and I — you know, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what it would be like. I had done all the projects with my, um, you know, throughout the — sorry my family’s coming home, I’m going to move upstairs. I had a lot of preconceived notions about how it would go. But I would say, um, the hardest was all of the writing and the reading — the reading especially, and making sure that what I was reading was meaningful and not, um, you know, stuff that I really shouldn’t have been concerning myself with, just stuff that was off topic. So in sum, as I said in the beginning, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but — academically — and for me personally it was probably one of the most worthwhile things I think I’ve ever done in my life. It was very much worth it.
Bonnie: Yeah, I would say that every project was difficult in its own way, both because in the early days of the courses you’re building a capacity so that by the time you get to the capstone project you have the academic muscles to make it happen. I had actually — I can’t believe I’m going to confess this, I started this program having gotten my undergraduate degree without ever having to write a paper longer than 5 pages. And because of that, I was incredibly nervous about whether or not I was going to be able to do any of the work, let alone the capstone. But each project brought its own level of difficulty, but I grew and I got better at it, and the better I got at it, the more I could accomplish. For my own personal perspective, I have a really hard time editing down my words and so a lot of the times when a project was particularly difficult it wasn’t because the assignment was that hard, it’s because I kind of have a satellite brain, and my thoughts have to go around and around a little while before
I get it boiled down to the essence of what the assignment is.
So there were several times that I actually made it harder than it had to be, which is why the hour guidelines are really great, because if you find that you’re spending more than 8 to 15 hours on something, either there’s a gap in your understanding that you need to make up for, like for me that was in theory, I was a little bit lower so I had to work a little harder in that class. Or it might be that you’re just making it harder on yourself. You know, if you’re a over-perfectionist, you know, which some of us are, then yeah, it might not have to be that particular level. But yes, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it was the most rewarding thing, absolutely Shannon, I agree with you 100%. It was worth every minute.
Shannon: I was going to say that what Bonnie said about the projects and the course building your academic muscles to get you to capstone, it’s funny, I was going to type in for a question, Annie, please tell Bonnie that she hit it right on the head with that comment! But it’s 100% true, you know, at the beginning I actually remember in my foundations course I received an F on my first draft of my foundations paper, because I was so out of practice with any sort of academic writing, you know, I just didn’t have the chops. I didn’t — I hadn’t built them up yet. And I hadn’t been scheduling the time to study, but Bonnie was 100% right, you know, what you do in the entire program leading up to your capstone, it really does build those muscles, and it gets you more acquainted I think with your own strengths and your weaknesses.
Bonnie mentioned hers was editing down her words. Mine is just deciding on any topic. I just was everywhere. I like this, I like this, I like this. So, you know, there’s — we all — the different strengths and weaknesses, you know, you learn — I think you learn almost as much about music as you learn about yourself in this program. And I say that jokingly of course. But, um, you do, you learn just as much about who you are as a professional, who you are as a writer, or a researcher, or, you know, a singer, or a theorist, as you do about, um, you know, the actual content itself, in my opinion.
Bonnie: But I do think it’s a great way — like if you can do this, then you would be very well prepared to go on and pursue a doctoral program, because you — you developed in you the ability to do those things. So yes, it is hard, but it is a very good use of your time.
Annie: Thank you. Pat, did you want to add to that?
Prof. Grutzmacher: Well, I wanted to say that an overarching objective of our entire Master of Music in music education online program is educating for the promotion of systemic change. And what I mean by that is the sort of systemic change that develops leadership in our profession and that kind of leadership will ultimately support the best practices in music education for all students, and just listening to Bonnie and Shannon today, I have to say that you make me very proud. You have really met this objective. You both are leaders, you both have accomplished a great deal, you both have a lot to take back to the profession, and I hope you will continue on that road. So bravo to both of you and thank you for this today.
Annie: Well said, for sure. I know we’re just over time and [unintelligible 00:60:05:26] question, we will repeat Bonnie’s website again, let me just, um, see if I can push that out. So that is it, nope, maybe not. Hold on, let me just try to push out the URL for Bonnie’s website. Give me one second.
Bonnie: Would it help if I put it in a question?
Annie: No, let me just see. Hold on. Let’s see. Okay. Hope that has worked. If that doesn’t work, let me know. Okay, hold on, give me a second.
Bonnie: I wasn’t very creative when I came up with the title, so it’s just my last name plus the word books, dot com.
Annie: It’s okay. I believe I pushed it to everyone on the Q & A box, so you can definitely view that after the webinar. And again, because we’re out of time, I know there’s some questions about the admissions side of things that Tawana’s more than happy to follow-up with you individually, and again, this webinar is being recorded, has been recorded, and we will share the recording link with you over the next few days. And so with that, I just want to wrap up our presentation. I just want to thank everyone for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us and I also want to thank again our speakers, so Professor Patricia and then also Bonnie and Shannon, and also Tawana for just sharing your insights and experience with us. It’s so worth it in terms of, you know, hearing all of this feedback from the program.
It’s great. So as mentioned, our next term does start in January 2018, so it is encouraged to start your applications soon, just so that you can get it completed and submitted for review, just so then it’s all ahead of the holidays that’s coming up. And again, if you have any questions, feel free to contact Tawana and her contact details are on the screen here, and you can definitely book an appointment in advance through the click of a button. And that’s it. That’s a wrap. And Bonnie, Shannon, and
Professor Grutzmacher, do you guys have anything else to say before we sign off?
Prof. Grutzmacher: Thank you for attending this, and thank you to our speakers for presenting today.
Shannon: Yes, thank you very much for coming and hanging out with us for the evening.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was lovely to hear about your project Shannon. Thank you.
Shannon: Oh, I’m so glad to hear about your stuff too Bonnie, congratulations.
Bonnie: You as well.
Annie: Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the day everyone. Thank you, goodbye now.