Presentations at GMTA Conference Showcase Knowledge of Shorter University Music Students
Photo Caption: Shorter University MTNA student chapter members presented “Why Didn’t My Teacher Teach Me This?,” a presentation for music teachers on preparing young students for success in music school, at the recent GMTA statewide conference. Presenters were, from left, Chandler Dedman, Becky Fowler, Grace Garnett, Samantha Deen, Haley Gravitte, and Vashti Baluch.
Rome, Ga. – Shorter University music students recently took on the role of teachers as they made presentations at the statewide Georgia Music Teachers Association (GMTA) conference. They were the only collegiate presenters to be included in this year’s event.
Music education major Becky Fowler, of Carrollton, made an individual presentation titled “Coloring the Keys: Alexander Scriabin’s Synesthesia and Opus 11 Preludes.” Members of Shorter’s student chapter of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) presented “Why Didn’t My Teacher Teach Me This?,” a presentation for music teachers on preparing young students for success in music school. The student presenters included Chandler Dedman, a worship and music leadership major from Carrollton; Vashti Baluch, a piano pedagogy major from Hendersonville, N.C.; Becky Fowler; Haley Gravitte, a music education major from Canton; Samantha Deen, a piano pedagogy major from Baxley; and Grace Garnett, a piano pedagogy major from Savannah.
Also presenting at the conference were Shorter music faculty members Amy Neal and Jerico Vasquez, whose presentation was titled “Bongos, Clusters, Stompings…Oh My!”
“I would estimate that there were 100 to 150 teachers and students in attendance this year from across the state,” Mrs. Neal said. “There were 25 presentations in three days; between our students and faculty, Shorter provided three of those sessions.”
Mrs. Neal added that the presentations by the Shorter students received a positive response from conference attendees. “Our Shorter students were the only collegiate presenters this year. Both Becky’s presentation and the group presentation were well received, with several questions and comments from those in attendance. One teacher stopped me later in the day to say how impressed he was with our students because they were extremely well prepared and well spoken. Their presentations were easily on par with more experienced teachers, and we could not have been more proud of them.”
Mrs. Neal explained that Shorter’s piano performance and pedagogy students have always benefitted from attending the GMTA conference, but taking part as presenters made the experience even more valuable. “The GMTA conference is a rich opportunity to hear new ideas from other teachers, to network with other music professionals, and to find new resources. But when they prepare for their own presentations, students take their in-class learning to a new level. They craft their own thoughts and ideas from facts they have learned. It’s an exciting part of their transformation from students to the educators we hope they will be!”
Fowler agreed, adding that preparing and presenting a presentation for the conference was a great learning experience. “I had so much fun preparing for and giving my presentation. I love research, so although the preparations took a lot of time, I really enjoyed the process. The conference itself was wonderful. I have attended this particular conference since my freshman year, so I know how the format of the presentations worked and who my audience would be for the most part. It was amazing (and nerve-wracking) to be on the other side of the lectern this year.
“As much as I love to learn from others, it was really fun to be the one presenting new information. I especially enjoyed the question and answer time, as teachers and professors around the room began to discuss the possible implications of the research,” Fowler said.
Fowler added that the presentation experience will be beneficial in her future career path, which she plans to include service on the foreign mission field. “First, if I have the opportunity to go to graduate school, any type of presentation will bolster my curriculum vitae. Second, the skill of taking a question, seeking out answers, comparing your findings with that of others, seeing beyond the current research to find other ways to look at an issue, and then to concisely verbalize your conclusions is an invaluable skill for just about anyone going into any trade. For me, I will need the skills outlined above when I move to a new culture and need to assess their current state (whether that be physical or spiritual) and what has already been done among them before I ever try to insert myself into or assert my ways onto their world,” she said.
The experience of presenting was a great opportunity to synthesize lessons learned throughout her time at Shorter, Fowler said. “If it were not for both music theory and music history, along with Shorter’s Critical Thinking course, I might never have learned the skill of connecting the dots between disciplines and looking at the whole picture of a subject for patterns and implications. I am indebted to several professors for their feedback and editing expertise — several of whom either read the paper or listened to me give the presentation multiple times, including my applied piano professor, Dr. Vasquez; my piano pedagogy professor, Mrs. Neal; and my music history professor, Dr. (John) McCluskey.”
Dr. John Reams, Dean of Shorter’s School of Fine and Performing Arts, said the students’ presentations are a great representation of the quality of education that takes place at Shorter. “It is rewarding to see the advantages of our small school environment — with faculty resources rivaling many larger institutions — benefit students as they prepare to compete in their chosen fields,” he said. “For a school our size, we are blessed to have the number of full-time faculty we have covering specializations such as music theory, music history, vocal performance, piano performance and piano pedagogy, choir, band, church music, music education, musical theatre, and more. With that level of training, it comes as no surprise to me that our current students show the same poise and knowledge one would expect from seasoned professionals.”
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christ-centered, four-year liberal arts university committed to excellence in education. U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review annually include Shorter on their lists of best regional colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and master’s programs.