Music Outreach at Susan Bailis: Conclusions

It’s hard to believe my Schweitzer Fellowship year has come to a close. While I am still working with Susan Bailis for another few weeks, I have effectively completed my service commitment and am now working to tie up loose ends with the project (such as creating a sustainability plan for next year and meeting with site and faculty mentors about my experience).

Looking back, I think that all things considered the project has been successful. I have learned a big lesson about limits, and I understand that I have a point of diminishing returns when I commit to too many projects and activities at one time. That said, I have really enjoyed my work with the residents at Susan Bailis.

I think the best learning experience has been the Friday morning music appreciation and history workshop. I wrote on my last blog about the challenges of preparation with this activity, which has continued to be present for me. At the same time I have clued into a concept introduced to me by Eric Booth in The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible, which I read in the fall semester of 2011, which is that of the entry point. An entry point for a music educator is simply the identification of what excites and interests me about the topics I am presenting. I think I have done this instinctually anyway, but on days when I feel especially engaged with an idea or line of questioning, I get even more positive feedback from the residents.

Further, I feel like this is such an important takeway for me for this project because I feel that the successes I have encountered with this fellowship have given me extra confidence to really share more of myself as a teacher. I feel like I have been a lot more vulnerable and openly curious with this fellowship as well as in my other teaching work, and it seems to have opened up a dialogue between students and myself that wasn’t there before. I’m still working on finding the right balance in certain situations, but regardless that has been a huge learning point for me.

In my final reflections for the Schweitzer Fellowship organization, I also commented on the value of just showing up. Having committed to a significant number of service hours at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have a choice about quitting even when I felt things weren’t going well. I’m glad I just kept showing up  and trying new things until something worked. It made the concept of failure feel less scary. Again I think I gained some confidence in my ability to learn and adjust. I realized I don’t have to know everything, I just need to be open to the learning dialogue that is taking place between myself and my students (or residents, or audience).

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you found something interesting to take away!

Music Outreach at Susan Bailis

One of the activities that has given me the greatest satisfaction in this busy few months are the weekly classes and sing-alongs at Susan Bailis Assisted Living.  I am working with them as part of my Schweitzer Fellowship, which has spanned the last academic year. I entered the project a bit blind, having had to find a new site and reconfigure my project after the initial site fell through. I had not had experience working with seniors before and I was a little nervous about it. I soon realized that my original project plan– chorus work and individual music lessons– weren’t a good fit for the population. The choral singing was difficult because of the wide disparity in musical ability and training–people who could read music got bored, people who could barely match pitch were frustrated.  Music lessons were difficult to organize because the few interested individuals tended to cancel or forget. I came up with another plan to offer more passive activities including a weekly music appreciation discussion and a weekly “sing along.” Once a week I bring in a CD or music with some kind of theme; for example, we did a month of opera history and each week focused on one or two composers or a certain style. As a group we listen and discuss interesting characteristics of the music including form and style. On another day I bring in old songs ranging from the 20’s to the 60’s and peck away at the piano while participants read from song sheets. Some sing, some just listen, but it usually ends up to be a fun and relaxed hour.

After some setbacks I feel we finally settled into a routine with these two activities around mid-February. The same clients tend to come to each respective activity and I feel I have developed a rapport with several of them. I think one big lesson I have learned so far, and this may seem obvious, is the value of just showing up. I admit I was discouraged at one point when the project wasn’t going as planned, but I’m glad I continued to try new activities until we found something that was good for the residents. I also am constantly reminded of the value of preparation and organization. In discussions that have not gone as well I always feel that I could have prepared more thoroughly beforehand. Finally, I think I’ve realized how much I can learn as a musician in any kind of educational setting. I’ve been able to explore musical works more in depth this semester as a result of offering these classes, and in the discussions themselves clients often have an unexpected question or insight that I can learn from.

In my next post I will share some video and anecdotes about the residents with whom I’ve worked and some thoughts about my experience with the Schweitzer Fellowship.

Susan Bailis Music Outreach

My guided internship this semester is with Susan Bailis Assisted Living. I am working with the residents there for a year-long service project through the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. My project involves one weekly music appreciation class and one weekly “sing-along.” The project took most of last semester to really get off the ground, but I feel this semester we found a combination of activities that seems to work well for the residents in terms of their interests and needs. The outcomes for this project are focused less on the acquisition of specific musical skills and more on improving the overall well-being and quality of life for seniors. My later blog posts will focus on the progress of the classes and sing-alongs.

Voice Class for Non-Majors: Final Blog

I can honestly say this has been the busiest semester of my life. On one hand I am pleased with the work I have accomplished. On the other hand, I have definitely learned a valuable lesson about the law of diminishing marginal returns.  I put a lot of time into my internship, spending one hour of lecture plus preparation per week, and approximately eight hours of private lesson time per week. I would like to come back to my documentation as I begin work on my cumulative portfolio for additional reflection. I have a great deal of material to work with and I feel I was just able to scratch the surface of all the lessons inherent in this experience.

My biggest lessons with this internship were about meeting students where they are and continuing to find tools for engagement in learning.  I feel a lot of responsibility to give students everything I can and I felt there were times I fell short of that goal. If I lose interest in a student, or get frustrated with what I perceive to be a lack of effort, I lose the opportunity to reengage them. I also have begun to recognize that the student-teacher relationship and subsequent student progress is a process. Patience with this process is something I have to keep working to develop. Fortunately I will be teaching the same class next semester! I’m excited about this and very eager to apply what I’ve learned.

In the end I was very pleased with the student performances in their final exam, which consisted of a quasi-promotional in front of the official instructor and the two Teaching Assistants (including myself). I sent an email to all of the students in the class congratulating them and expressing that I hoped they were proud of their accomplishments.

My internship portfolio can be viewed at the link below. This link leads to all of my current portfolios; click on “Guided Internship” to preview the right one. Thanks for following my blog!


Voice Class for Non-Majors; Blog 2

This is my first semester as a T.A. for the undergraduate class, Voice for Non-Majors.  So far it has been a challenging but rewarding experience. As I stated in my first blog, the learning curve is pretty steep.  As the semester progressed I found myself getting more comfortable with lessons, but continually challenged by the lectures.  The mid-term exam was an insightful experience. I found myself frustrated with some of the students’ preparation and effort on the mid-term, but also reflected on things I can do better.  I think I learned something about how to present material next semester, including providing better handouts, doing more demonstrations, and trying to make the class generally more interactive and engaging.

Lessons have been going pretty well. I need to work on improving my documentation and reflection on students’ progress. I feel with a few students we tend to get a bit “stuck” and I think if I had a better record of their progress that would help us shift gears and keep lessons engaged and interesting. I also think observing some lessons with other teachers would help with giving me more ideas for techniques, warm-ups, and repertoire. This may be something to pursue next semester as I’m not sure I will have the opportunity to observe before the break.

Attached is a video clip of a breathing exercise with one of my students. We’ve been working on getting her to feel her breath in order to use her support more fully.

Teaching Voice for Non-Majors

Editor’s Note: This is Shannon Kelly’s first post in a series of three regarding her internship this semester. You can view follow-up posts to this one, and her internship proposal, here

My internship this fall will be teaching a section for an undergraduate voice class at NEC, titled in the catalogue, appropriately enough, Voice Class for Non-Majors. I have eleven students in the class. Each week I teach a 50 minute group class, and each week I give each student a 45 minute lesson. The size of the class has been a challenge so far, just in providing each student individual instruction time. With all of our overscheduled time it can be tough getting a lesson in each week even though we try to stick with pre-set days and times. I’m beginning to see each student’s personality and needs. One of the exciting things is seeing even the bit of development that has occurred in the first few weeks of lessons. The classroom setting is another challenge in itself. I had the opportunity basically to structure my own course however I saw fit which was scary and great at the same time. I feel with each lecture I’m learning something new and I’m glad I get the chance to teach the class again next semester and apply this experience. My learning curve is pretty steep. Lessons so far: Keep it specific, bring examples, use handouts, communicate frequently and often (email is your friend), repeat and re-emphasize, use multiple delivery methods (audio, visual, kinesthetic), to encourage retention. Whew. More to come.

Internship Proposal: Voice Class for Non-Majors (TA)

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to introduce you to Shannon Kelly, a master’s voice student working towards a MIE Concentration. This is her internship proposal for the Fall 2011 semester; you can view follow-up posts to this one here


I am writing to propose as my guided internship for the Fall 2012 semester my Teaching Assistantship for the NEC undergraduate course titled Voice Class for Non-Majors. For this class, I will teach a section of approximately 9 students each week in lecture format; in addition, I will provide one-on-one voice lessons to each student in the class for either 30 minutes or one hour each week.

My goals for the internship are as follows:

  • Gain experience and comfort teaching in a classroom setting, including preparing lessons, setting expectations, measuring student progress, and setting appropriate benchmarks for evaluating and grading student performance.
  • Evaluate and refine my classroom teaching style as observed through documentation and data collection.
  • Acquire a greater level of comfort and competence as a studio instructor.
  • Improve student engagement and learning as a result of techniques studied through MIE coursework.

My previous vocal teaching experience consists of one-on-one studio voice lessons and this individual experience is limited to a handful of private students. This will be my first real experience teaching regularly in a classroom setting. Therefore this internship is an important component of my development as an Artist-Teacher-Scholar.

I am enrolled in two MIE core courses in the Fall 2011 semester (Models for Teaching and Learning for MIE and Introduction to MIE) and also took the MIE Seminar in Spring 2011. I hope to use the internship as a testing ground for several techniques I studied during that course, including specific classroom teaching strategies and approaches to vocal technique and training gleaned from readings about developing talent.

This internship is relevant to my future plans as an Artist-Teacher-Scholar in that I hope to teach both individually and in a classroom/group setting, but have limited experience in either setting. Further, I find that teaching helps me develop as artist by solidifying my own technique and improving creative interpretation and expression in my own performances.

Concerning my best personal traits as a learner, I believe my two greatest assets are my curiosity and my willingness to learn. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the “growth mindset” in learning and I am eager to apply this concept as a teacher. I also feel that my willingness to learn is important in creating an enthusiasm for subject matter among the students I teach. I am eager to apply this concept and to refine techniques for keeping students engaged and enthusiastic about the learning process.

Internship Inquiry Questions

  • How do I need to adapt my teaching techniques (in group and private settings) to create active learning and growth for the students in this class?
  • How will teaching this course contribute to my development as an artist and a scholar as well as a teacher?

Documentation Strategy

  • Video recordings: I will record at least three classes and at least three private lessons with two different students over the course of the semester to try and track my learning process.
  • Student work: I have included several writing assignments that require students to reflect and comment on singing and the classical vocal repertoire as an art form. I feel that students’ reactions to performances, while varied, may reflect my effectiveness in creating an enthusiasm (or at least appreciation) for the art form.
  • Student Tests: Students’ performance on tests will also be a helpful feedback tool. Students’ improvement over the course of the semester will be the most important measure of teaching effectiveness.
  • Student performances: Students will also perform live for a jury as their final exam. I hope to use these performances as a marker of my effectiveness as a studio teacher, not simply in terms of students’ vocal technique but their confidence, engagement, and interpretation of the songs.
  • Student Evaluations: Student evaluations will be a critical tool for comparing student’s perceptions of the value of this course with my own perceptions about student engagement and learning. I will use these evaluations to refine both content and technique in the classroom and studio setting.