Students Inspire Youth through Residency
Musicians explore new venues and possibilities with educational engagement
When MSU doctoral student Nathan Hubbard started a chamber group with other student musicians, he knew he was part of an ensemble that wanted to do more than simply perform at recitals, special events or typical venues.
So when Hubbard heard of a new educational engagement residency program between the MSU College of Music and Waverly Public Schools, he took the idea to other members of the Verdant Winds ensemble. Within weeks, the quintet was on board to participate in a unique program that benefited MSU music performance students and 4th graders alike.
"The program exceeded all our expectations,” says Hubbard, a DMA student in oboe performance. “Our goal was initially to get some experience playing in other settings, but this program was so much more than that and incredibly enriching.”
Hubbard was among eight student performers and two Ph.D. music education student mentors from the MSU College of Music who participated in a 15-week residency program at Waverly Elmwood Elementary. From January through April 2016, the MSU students were developing lessons plans, creating activities, and bringing music to life for 78 4th graders in Katie Pike’s music classroom.
“I was so excited when MSU first approached us about the outreach program,” says Pike, the cooperating classroom teacher. “This program gave our students the chance to interact with high-level musicians—to ask questions, play, dance, and move with music—as opposed to simply listening and learning about what a musician could be.”
The idea for the educational engagement residency grew from research into experiential learning by Christine Beamer, the director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship at the College of Music.
“We continually found that employers prefer candidates who have gained experience through internships, part-time jobs, or experiential learning,” Beamer says. “We thought about how that might translate and be applied with music education and music performance students, and came up with the idea of residencies.”
Beamer consulted with Cynthia Taggart, MSU professor of music education, and talked through concepts that involved small ensembles or individual performers working in the community. After comparing notes with faculty at other collegiate music programs and conservatories, they decided to have performance students work with K-12 teachers to enrich the music education experience of young children.
“We saw the residency as a way to give performers the opportunity to learn, practice and reflect on what it means to truly engage a community,” says Beamer. “In this instance, it gave our performance students a chance to try out different ways to engage an audience through performance, assess the success of the method, and revise their approach. In the end, the goal is to help them learn how to create their own residencies and how to make community engagement a part of their entrepreneurial activities.”
Taggart agrees. She also emphasized the benefits that residency programs bring to K-12 students, community groups, and other populations—particularly those underserved by music education.
“Our goal was to help performers create engagements focused on the needs of the people they were involving, rather than their own needs,” Taggart says. “Many performers think it’s simply about playing and that’s enough. This program helped them learn how not to just perform for others, but to truly engage their audience in an active way through listening and music making.”
The MSU Educational Engagement Residency involved faculty partners from MSU departments of music education and theatre, community partners at Elmwood Elementary, MSU alumni, and guest artists. The 2016 program was funded through the Withrow Career Building Endowment. Plans are in place to offer the program in 2017, thanks to support provided through the MSU Federal Credit Union and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs minigrant program.