Dr. Heather Lofdahl is leaving UNC Greensboro with quite the list of achievements, experience, and three degrees. Lofdahl, who will receive her Doctorate in Music Education this Spring, also earned Masters of Music degrees in Music Education and Viola Performance from the School of Music in 2015.
Lofdahl says she’s known for a long time that she wanted to pursue a career in music:
“I loved orchestra class in middle school and had outstanding viola teachers in school and in private lessons, and I wanted to be like them. When it came time to go to college, I decided to pursue degrees in both Music Education and Viola Performance so that I could learn to teach and continue developing my musicianship skills at the highest level possible. During my time in the School of Music, I taught private lessons in a community partnership at a local church and at my school. I also had outstanding mentors in my student teaching placement. By the end of my degree, I could not imagine doing anything other than teaching orchestra.”
Lofdahl chose UNCG because a former viola teacher recommended that she study with Dr. Scott Rawls. During a visit to campus, she took a lesson with Dr. Rawls, and she also met Dr. Rebecca MacLeod and learned about her string music education program. Lofdahl was teaching a public school orchestra in Illinois and loving it, so she said she’d consider attending sometime in the future. That changed after a call from Dr. MacLeod:
“Dr. MacLeod had a last-minute assistantship open up in the summer of 2012, and she encouraged me to apply. I did, and when I was accepted, I knew I was receiving an offer I couldn’t refuse. I moved to Greensboro that summer, and that was one of the best decisions of my life.”
After earning her master’s degrees, Lofdahl returned to teaching for four years. Again, UNCG was in her future:
“Pursuing a PhD was always in the back of my mind. I chose UNCG again because I knew Dr. MacLeod would continue to be an outstanding mentor, and I thought the string music education program here would provide me with the greatest breadth of experience of any program in the country. I have been able to grow as a music educator under the guidance of Dr. MacLeod. She has allowed me to assist with and teach undergraduate courses in music education, teach elementary strings classes in the public schools, and coordinate a community partnership aimed at increasing access to string instruction for underserved students.”
Lofdahl says she has been able to pursue all of her interests under the guidance of outstanding faculty and surrounded by outstanding colleagues:
“I have been able to develop my conducting skills through coursework, conducting the UNCG Sinfonia and serving as Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra (GSYO). Though GSYO is not affiliated with UNCG, I would not have had that opportunity without the connections I made and the skills I developed at UNCG. I have also been fortunate enough to teach private lessons at The Music Academy of North Carolina here in town.
“Dr. MacLeod and Dr. Tami Draves have supervised my research and helped me to explore my research interests through quantitative, qualitative, and community-engaged methodologies.
“I have been able to continue studying the viola with Dr. Rawls, who has been the most outstanding and supportive musical mentor I could have asked for. Most PhD students at other universities take lessons with graduate students—if they take lessons at all —so I have been lucky that Dr. Rawls has let me take viola lessons with him for the past four years.”
Lofdahl already has her next university lined up. She recently accepted a position
as Assistant Professor of Music Education at The Ohio State University in Columbus where she’ll be teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in string music education, conducting research, and supervising graduate research and teaching. She hopes to also do some conducting, and develop a community partnership with schools in the Columbus area:
“This position is an absolute dream come true.I think my experience at UNCG set me up really well for this. I have experience in all aspects of the position. I think the two most important things I will take with me are: (1) some incredible mentors and friends who will continue to be invaluable in my growth and learning in the profession and (2) a continued commitment to equity and access in string music education.
“Much of my research and community-engaged work has repeatedly reminded me that the field of string education faces many challenges related to access and equity. Because of this work and everything I have learned at UNCG, I am deeply committed to increasing access to string instruction for all people.
“I can’t wait to get started!”
Dr. Lofdahl’s advice for current and future Spartans:
“Take as many opportunities as you can; you never know when saying ‘yes’ to something could lead to invaluable connections or open important doors. Spend time with people whose backgrounds are different from your own and learn from them. Get off campus and explore the Greensboro community!”
Story by Terri W. Relos
Photo credit: Brittany Faith Photography