Snagging and Keeping that Day Job

Wednesday, June 22 2011

Lionel Hampton School of Music provides missing link in music education
By Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – Say what you will about ants and grasshoppers, but grasshoppers – the musicians on the losing end of that ancient fable – are very often hardworking, intelligent, tenacious and talented folks, with the lofty aim of making a living doing what they love.

For musicians, success in the field has historically meant establishing and keeping a day job. That job usually entails teaching others their craft.

A new University of Idaho program, one of only a few offered in the nation, aims to bolster music graduates’ employability.

“While Lionel Hampton School of Music music education majors currently boast close to a 100 percent job placement rate, it is still true that most music graduates establish private teaching studios during their careers,” said Miranda Wilson, assistant professor of cello and double bass. "Teaching often provides musicians employment when there isn't full-time performance work available."

As graduate students, Wilson and U-Idaho colleague Kristin Elgersma, now an assistant professor of piano, taught in university/community pedagogy programs; Elgersma at Northwestern University and Wilson at the University of Texas at Austin.

Through those programs, each got their first taste of teaching children from the community, under close supervision of encouraging professors.

When they arrived at the University of Idaho last fall, they agreed they wanted their own students to have that same kind of experience in the Moscow community.

Launching this fall, a new teaching program for U-Idaho music faculty and music students, aptly named the “LHSOM Preparatory Division,” gets off the ground with a strong boost of advocacy from LHSOM Director Kevin Woelfel and Assistant Director Susan Hess, and the support of College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences Dean Kathy Aiken.

In addition to providing University of Idaho student musicians training as teachers, the Preparatory Division will increase the interaction and outreach between the School of Music and the community. Experienced, degreed, professional musicians also will teach in the program, and will actively mentor university student participants.

LHSOM faculty and students will offer classes in piano, violin, viola, cello and music theory for children ages four and up, with additional programs such as Kindermusik and the Greater Palouse Youth Orchestra. The Kindermusik program serves infants and toddlers through age six.

The GPYO is under the direction of local cello teacher Sheila Kilcoyne and LHSOM violin and viola professor Ferenc Cseszko, conductor of the University of Idaho Symphony. That long-established program now will be incorporated into the Preparatory Division.

Through the LHSOM Preparatory Division, kids in the Moscow community whose families cannot afford to buy or rent instruments will have access to them. Wilson earned a seed grant in 2011 to purchase a collection of violins, violas and cellos of various sizes – from tiny one-sixteenths designed for four-year-olds up, to full-sizes for older children. For a small fee, the instruments will be loaned to participating students.

“This will further facilitate our goal of making classical music training accessible to children who want to learn, but can't necessarily afford lessons,” said Wilson. “The program offers the community high-quality music education delivered by excellent student and professional musicians.”

While richer, deeper and more applicable music education for university students, and for children and young adults in the Moscow community, is the ultimate goal of the program, the chance to learn to teach under professorial supervision also is a strong draw for those who are trying to choose a college, Wilson said.

“The Preparatory Division will be a great recruitment tool for us here at the LHSOM, because it encompasses piano, theory, Kindermusik and orchestra as well as strings," she said. "We anticipate that the number of strings and piano undergraduates we recruit will significantly increase, and this will enhance the activities of our existing orchestra and chamber music programs.”

LHSOM professors will visit Palouse area public schools annually with their students to bring K-12 students into the program.

“The LHSOM Preparatory Division will immensely enrich the learning experiences of all the student teachers who participate, and the experience of professional teaching prior to graduation will look very impressive on their CVs,” said Wilson. “It's always a challenge to begin a career in music, but this experience will enable our alumni to hit the ground running.”

“We really appreciate the tremendous enthusiasm there has been for the project from all quarters of the University and the wider community,” said Wilson.
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit