Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor
In the past three years, the music education program has tripled in size and now there are 29 students. The department is comprised of students looking to graduate from Berry with a Bachelor of Music degree. It consists of vocal and instrumental tracks that students can chose to follow.
Stefanie Cash, assistant professor of music, was the first professor hired to coordinate the music education program. She started three years ago when the department was made up of only nine students. With 29 students this semester, Cash explains that it is all a team effort when it comes to recruiting. Both Paul Neal, associate professor of fine arts and music, and Cash spend multiple days travelling around the area, visiting high school by teaching in workshops and helping with concert preparations.
This participation has led countless students to Berry for the music education department. Their dedication to the department inspires students, as junior Daniel Holder explained. After meeting both Cash and Neal, Holder described how he could see their passion for their students and the work that they do.
“What really brought me was that sense that they take ownership in the students they are teaching,” Holder said.
The goal of the department, as Cash described, is to serve. Students are taught in “Martha’s Way” and work to serve the Berry community but also the Rome community. They are required to participate in both classes and activities on campus and activities off campus.
On campus, music education students have the opportunity to work in various leadership roles including working as choir and band assistants. The department also holds two choir festivals a year, offering students insight into the planning process for festivals.
The department has also partnered with Armuchee Middle School, working with their band by teaching students how to play their various instruments. The partnership allows Berry students to gaining experience in the classroom as early as their freshman year. Holder explains that he was placed in a high school choir class during the fall semester of freshman year. He describes that even though it was scary, his learned more about himself and how to apply what he was learning, before he even learned it in the classroom.
“It was so beneficial for me,” Holder said. “It was scary at first, but it helped my gain confidence before I took conducting and any method classes. Now that I am taking them, I feel even more comfortable in the classroom.”
This year, Cash held a music education retreat, allowing all the music education students to come together and spend time getting to know each other. According to Holder, this retreat was very beneficial. He explained that as students get older and start taking more track-specific classes, choral and instrumental music education students don’t interact as often in class anymore. This year, Cash took the first steps to help with this divide.
“She really is trying to bridge the difference between instrumental and choral music education,” Holder said.
All music education majors are also a part of the Collegiate National Association for Music Educators (CNAFME), a group that meets to help students learn more about real world applications for music education. The club regularly hosts activities and events for music education majors, including bringing various educators to campus to give workshops and seminars on different teaching styles.
The club also helps in the community, working with the Rome Symphony Orchestra’s education committee with a variety of different activities. Recently, as Cash explained, students from the club created a “petting zoo” of instruments where children could touch and play with various instruments after seeing the Rome Symphony Orchestra perform.
“It’s a fun experience for the kids, and then our students get to have the opportunity to interact with the students as they come by,” Cash said.
The program also provides students with a network of support. Senior Kara Truitt explained that as she plans for her future, she has a team of professors supporting her and helping her through figuring out her life after Berry.
“Later on, when we go and get jobs, we have all these people to fall back on,” Truitt said. “Since the program is growing, we have people to reach out to if we ever need a certain specification.”
Cash has spent countless hours along with other professors in the department to prepare students for life after Berry. All music education majors student teach during their senior year, but Cash has worked to get students experience right away. Truitt explained how beneficial this has been to her life at Berry.
“You take your methods classes, but you don’t fully understand it until you have been in the classroom,” Truitt said. “And that’s what Dr. Cash focuses on ‘learn by doing’.”
According to Cash, the success of the department cannot be pinned to one person. Cash personally believes that the growth of the department has been because of the opportunities it has for students.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why our program is growing, because of all the experiences there are to teach outside of their education classes,” Cash said.
The biggest goal of the department remains as what Cash described as the most rewarding for education majors. The department teaches students the importance of their major and the work they are doing, but more importantly, as she explains, it goes beyond just teaching students.
“We embody Martha Berry’s vision of wanting to serve,” Cash said. “I think education does that in general. You are investing in the next generation of students and you are building the future. To do that through music is a great reward.”