Music Ed Majors Gain Professional Experience (& Have Fun) as Part of National Association for Music Education

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) works to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. NAfME’s activities and resources have been largely responsible for the establishment of music education as a profession, for the promotion and guidance of music study as an integral part of the school curriculum, and for the development of the National Standards for Arts Education.

At Seton Hill, music education majors benefit from membership in the Seton Hill Student Chapter of the NAfME. Four members of the current student leadership team - President Ellen Davis, Vice President Dale Streletz, Treasurer Faith McDowell and Secretary Madalyn Fortin - recently answered a few questions about the experience, and how it has helped them develop as music educators.

Why did you choose Seton Hill for your music education degree?

Ellen: I wanted to be able to have a personal connection with my professors, but also have up-to-date facilities and music programs that were heavily supported by the institution. Seton Hill not only had all of these qualities, but it also had an incredibly welcoming family atmosphere that I absolutely loved.

Madalyn: The small community that we have on campus along with small class sizes and more individual attention from the professors. I was also amazed with the facilities of the Performing Arts Center. I felt as if I would have access to anything I needed and many opportunities, which has become true. 

Dale: As an incoming freshman at Seton Hill, my initial major was not Music Education. I applied and was accepted as a Musical Theatre and Theatre Business double major. My freshman year was hard for me, adapting to college life, being away from home, and on top of all of that, I began to miss music. I decided to switch my major that semester, realizing as a music educator, I could teach music and theater.

Faith: Two of my music teachers graduated from Seton Hill and recommended that I look into the program. I visited during a Music Major for a Day and fell in love with the facilities and the environment. The community felt so supportive and very much like a family. I knew right after the event that Seton Hill would offer me a home and pathway to success in music education.

What is the mission of the Seton Hill Chapter of the National Association for Music Education?

Ellen: Our mission as the NAfME Collegiate Chapter of Seton Hill University is to give members the opportunity to increase interest, knowledge and productivity in all areas of music education. In addition, the Chapter gives its members professional development opportunities through a number of local and statewide conferences, connecting with local music teachers, and ultimately providing the best opportunities to prepare our members for entering the teaching world. We also hope to advocate music in schools and to expand a love for music across campus.

Ellen, what is your role as president?

As president I act more as a communicator and coordinator than someone who is involved in directly planning things. During Club meetings, I do a good bit of talking and explaining to the group what our overall goals and ideas are and refer to other officers for specific explanations!

"A smaller school does not mean smaller opportunities. The connections you make, the quality content you learn, and the willingness of the professors to help you succeed will prepare you for whatever you choose to do!"

How did you become involved in leadership of the NAfME Music Education Club?

Madalyn: I wanted to be on the leadership team so that I could offer my help in giving our club a successful year and learn more about what it takes to be a leader. When I was elected Secretary I made a promise to myself and the club that I would help NAfME get back up and running after COVID, and provide a new and better experience for our club members. Along with the help of my fellow officers, we have definitely changed the look of our organization and impacted its future success. 

Dale: I became involved with NAfME leadership at the end of last spring's semester as a way to get more leadership experience and to become more active in the club.

What projects or club events had the biggest impact on you as a future music educator?

Faith: I think two events really surprised me with what I learned. We held a "Pie a Professor" event and while this was super fun, it challenged the officers in regards to creating and running a successful fundraiser from scratch. This is something that we as music teachers will more than likely have to do. The second more social event was the Masked Talent show. It taught me the importance of making connections outside of the program, communication and the behind-the-scenes of putting a show together, all of which are valuable skills in the profession. 

Ellen: The yearly Pennsylvania Music Educators Conference has definitely had the biggest impact. I haven't been to an in- person conference since I was a senior in high school (due to COVID) and am super excited to be heading to the Poconos for the return of the in-person conference next month. The conference brings music educators from all around the state together to attend sessions and lectures (including topics like Teaching Kindergarten Music, How to Bring Popular Music into Your Music Classroom, Advocating for Arts Programs in your schools, etc.) and make connections. We also get the opportunity to represent Seton Hill at this conference and advertise how wonderful our program is. 

Music Faculty and Students

Madalyn: This year, we have done a pie-in-the-face event, masked talent show, and helped with School of Visual and Performing Arts events such as open houses and auditions. These experiences have helped me develop my leadership skills and learn how to plan fundraisers in the future. I have learned how to be professional through times of stress, communicate, plan/organize, and become more aware of the little details that you may not know of when it comes to organizing a fundraiser and event. 

Dale: Back in October of 2021, NAfME and PMTA (Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association) did a joint event, The Masked Talent Show. This event was a campus-wide fundraiser for both clubs where faculty and staff members disguised themselves and performed a talent of some kind. This event was very educational for myself and my fellow officers. We received hands-on experience with creating, organizing, preparing for, and running an event that had never been done before on this campus. All of these skills are essential for us to have as future music educators and, thus, the event had a huge effect on all members of the clubs.

Dale, You participated in a story back in 2021 about learning and performing during the pandemic. You said something interesting: 'I think that the most significant thing that I can take away from this strange situation is the ability to persevere.'  Now that we're a little closer to normal, do you still feel the same way about the experience?

Yes, I 100% still agree with my previous statement. The craziness we have all been living through for the past two years has been difficult in so many different ways. As we grow closer and closer to the end of the pandemic, I recognize even more how important persistence is. Down at the Performing Arts Center, we have not let COVID-19 stop us from learning and doing what we love the most. For my remaining time at Seton Hill, I will try my best to continue persevering and encouraging others to do so as well.

What are your career plans?

Madalyn: After I graduate, I plan to get a job teaching as soon as I can. Right now, based on the experience I’ve had here so far and from the courses I have taken, I am leaning more towards working with elementary or middle schoolers.

Dale: I am still unsure what my "ideal" career placement would be. I can see myself in high school or middle school band, but I could also see myself in elementary general. I do plan on going back for a master's degree but am unsure if I would ever teach at the postsecondary level.

Faith: I plan to find a teaching job in any grade level and area of music education. I would like to eventually get a graduate degree in music education as well as composition. In addition to being a music teacher, I would like to have some of my instrumental and choral compositions published.

What would you like to tell someone who is considering Seton Hill and/or the music education major?

Madalyn: For anyone considering the Seton Hill Music Ed program, I would recommend talking with the heads of our department, Dr. Jessica Vaughan-Marra, and Dr. Christopher Marra. When I visited, talking to Dr. Marra was very helpful and he was able to answer a lot of my questions! I also recommend meeting with your potential private instrument instructor. Making sure you feel a connection there and that you are comfortable with the teacher is an important thing to figure out. 

Faith: The people at Seton Hill are what make your college experience. They know you by name and regardless of your major, but especially in the music program, we are all a big family. The community knows what it is like to go through college and a more rigorous degree program, so they are there to support you every step of the way. A smaller school does not mean smaller opportunities. The connections you make, the quality content you learn, and the willingness of the professors to help you succeed will prepare you for whatever you choose to do!

Dale: Apply! Seton Hill is an excellent school for any music degree and its music is at the roots of our school. Additionally, all of our faculty are wonderful and you will receive experience in the field during your first semester, unlike other schools! 

Photo top: (l - r) Ellen, Dale, Faith (at piano) and Madalyn.

Photo inset: Students and faculty getting ready for the “Pie A Professor” event.