Imagine it’s the first day of school — the very first day of school in your very first job as a teacher. Add to that, you are an arts education teacher at a time when so many school districts across the country are facing a budgetary crisis. Now, toss in a pandemic that turns teaching into a virtual juggling act of online classes and hybrid schedules.

School of Music Class of 2020 graduates Nygel Harris, Emily Gordon, and Nick Shoaf are experiencing all of those things but they say they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

“I have wanted to be a music teacher for so long because I know the impact music education can have on a person”, says Nygel Harris who received his Bachelor’s Degree in music education in May and is now the Orchestra Director at LeRoy Martin Magnet GT Middle School in Raleigh, NC.

“I was such a shy and insecure kid. High school band helped me become more confident, more social, and even more loving. That was an important developmental stage in my life, and band class gave me a safe environment. I want to be able to provide that for others.”

The Wake County School System, where Harris teaches three levels of orchestra and guitar, started the year out online and will switch to a hybrid schedule at some point.

“This will be incredibly challenging and take consistent innovation on my part. I’m creating assignments where students record themselves and take pictures of their playing positions. One positive thing about this is it gives me more opportunity for individualized feedback since the students are submitting content every week. Our professors laid a great foundation for us to be successful in the years to come. They taught us not only pedagogical content and classroom management, they also stressed the importance of self-evaluation, creativity, and being flexible — something that’s needed more than ever.”

Emily Gordon is a triple major — Bachelor of Music in Music Education – Instrumental/General, Bachelor of Music in Performance – Trumpet, and a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Administration. She landed a position at East Iredell Middle School as the Director of Bands and Choirs, where she teaches all grade levels. For now she has a hybrid schedule with different groups of students coming on different days of the week.

“This year will be full of challenges. There is no way we could’ve prepared for this. I didn’t have any formal training about how to teach a performing arts class online, but our professors and mentors at CVPA taught us to be resilient!”

Nicholas Shoaf is Director of Choirs at Kernodle Middle School in Greensboro. He holds a BA in Arts Administration and a BM in Music Education. Like Harris and Gordon, he sees challenge and opportunity in this non-traditional school year.

“It is very exciting and scary at the same time to teach choir students online, but my generation is so technology driven in everything we do. I think that has helped me transfer knowledge and skills to online learning. The challenge I face is building a student/teacher relationship in a virtual environment.”

CVPA Music Education students spend approximately two-thirds of their classroom time in music and teacher licensure study, and work closely with faculty members in their specialized concentration. They study with academic and studio faculty, perform with a variety of large and small ensembles, and spend time interactively learning the craft of music teaching in area public schools. One of the faculty members is Brett Nolker, Associate Professor of Music Education, who specializes in choral and secondary-level general music education. Nolker is active in music education research, with areas of interest including music teacher development. He says that while methods are different during the pandemic, CVPA music educators have been trained well.

“While we value the important place of group music-making in our schools and society, our program has always emphasized providing the richest individual learning for each child in the music classroom. So, in this challenging time, we will continue to work with our students and alumni to use our assessment and technology tools to design instruction that provides the most engaging individual music learning possible, while continuing to advocate for the important and vital place of music in everyone’s life.”

Nygel Harris says he’s up for the challenge: “I’m confident that this can be a very successful year. It will just take all of the diligence that we music teachers can muster and we’ll have to be more adaptable than ever before!”

CVPA offers arts education degrees in all of the disciplines: Art, Dance, Music, and Theatre.
Here’s a breakdown of the May 2020 Arts Education graduates:

BA-Dance Studies: K-12 Licensure 4
BFA-Art Education (K-12): 3
BFA-Dance: Dance Education 9
BFA-Drama: Theatre Education 4
BM-Music Education: 2
BM-Music Education:
Choral/General Music Education 12
BM-Music Education:
Instrumental/General Music Ed 19

Total Arts Education Graduates 53