As a small-town kid from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was in complete culture shock coming to Ball State as a music education major in 2000. But I always felt at home in the School of Music. You see, before I auditioned on campus, I’d never been to Indiana in my life. But as soon as I walked into the Hargreaves building for the audition, I felt at home. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating that day. Current students and professors alike asked me about my goals and what I wanted out of my university education. They cared. I knew I’d found my school.
When I arrived on campus for my freshman year, I was particularly impressed by the music education faculty. They pushed us hard! Their courses were demanding, and we were required to do lots of field experiences in local schools. This resulted in a deep understanding of what music education was… and could be. As a vocal/general music education major, Dr. Don Ester was particularly influential in my journey. He always pushed me to be better and taught me so much. There was a small cohort of us specializing in choral music education, and we became very close (as peers and with our professors). We supported and pushed each other. I always knew that my BSU professors cared about me, as a person as well as a student. He continued to be a sounding board and resource when I had my first teaching job in California. Many of the materials I created in Dr. Ester’s courses were immediately implemented at Hoover Middle School and Lincoln High School. I am so grateful that what we learned was practicable and usable in K-12 classrooms. It is these qualities that I try to replicate in my current position.
As I completed my Master’s degree in Choral Conducting at Northern Arizona University, I started to think about my future. While I love teaching middle and high school choir (I taught grades 5-8 for two years following my M.M. program), I came to realize that what I was particularly passionate about was music teacher education. Basically, I wanted to be the Dr. Ester for music education majors. So, when it came time to choose between a D.M.A. program in choral conducting and a Ph.D. in music education, the decision came down to teacher education.
After completing my Ph.D. in music education at Michigan State University in 2016 (where I was a classmate of fellow BSU alumnus Dr. Adam Kruse), I was hired in a tenure-track music education position at California State University, Long Beach. At the CSULB Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, I conduct the University Choir (an auditioned mixed ensemble) and teach undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate music education courses. I am currently in my third year here and I am constantly thinking about and referring to course materials and ideas I learned in my music education classes at Ball State. Dr. Ester is always in the back of my mind and I hope that one day I will be half as influential for CSULB students as he was for me.