SHARE YOUR PASSION

Meet Our Students

CHRISTOPHER BETZ, M '14

168993_865747488140_7504587_n"My  experience at VanderCook College of Music has been nothing but a positive one. Everything from the admissions process to the commencement ceremony seemed well-organized and well-planned.

I commuted to VanderCook daily from the south suburbs of Chicago; a 45 minute drive when traffic was rough. I also had the option of taking the train, which would have allowed me to get work done on the way to Chicago. I felt the workloads were appropriate for each class and since my appreciation for the material dramatically increased since my undergraduate studies, I found myself very motivated to complete the work and with a high level of excellence!

My favorite moments certainly were found in singing with the Chorale and Concert Choir. I made a strong connection with the other singers in my section in Chorale and we had a great time making excellent music. I certainly enjoyed performing in the Concert Choir with instrumentalists unaccustomed to singing. I was able to simultaneously use my singing and teaching skills in this group.

In my methods and conducting classes, I learned a great deal from seeing my peers bring their ideas and skills to the podium. Dr. Sinclair facilitated thoughtful exercises that allowed us to learn from each other, and not just him.

I look forward to the MECA courses and pursuing the rest of my master’s project in the coming summers."

RONISHA DUBOSE, M '14

4fe3bc942f225.preview-300"I have always been a really busy lady.  A mother of three small children, ages 4 to 7 years old, with two choirs, a full-time general music job, 13 private students, a husband, a home, parents to love and a fitness routine to maintain...I thought there was no way in heaven or on earth that I would ever find time to pursue a Master's degree! Yet, the desire was unquenchable and the program at VanderCook sounded so reasonable that I had to go for it.  The application process was reasonable and the staff was really helpful in making sure that I and they had everything needed.  I soon found out that the staff at VanderCook is of the friendliest and most helpful bunch of people in higher education!  Start to finish, from the application process to the last day of summer school, I have not a single glimmer of a complaint about this dedicated, hard-working, patient, giving, friendly staff. Truly!

I had already taken three weekend MECA classes at VanderCook, so I had an idea of the level of quality the school offered in regards to instructors and course objectives.  However, what I received on my very first day of classes surpassed my already high expectations.  My Intro to Graduate Studies class was really an intro to VanderCook class, and it took me by such surprise.  I walked into a lecture hall setting, there was this delicate older woman who was worried that her voice will not carry to the back of the room, and she began to lecture from somewhat of a PowerPoint presentation.  My first thoughts were, "Oh boy, I hope I can stay awake!" However, within the first ten minutes of her lecture she caused me to self-examine, question the profession and its practices, think about my future as an educator, wonder how I will contribute to the scholarly community and to our profession, question mine and others philosophies, examine what is meant by the word "truth," and so much more!  She stimulated so many questions in my mind that I wanted to beg for mercy! Then she turned it around by saying that this sort of stimulation and finding the answers to these questions is what makes one a Master. Whoa!

I was totally blown away within the first ten minutes of my first Summer residency at VanderCook College of Music... and the feeling did NOT diminish, not one bit, not one ounce! Every class, every private lesson, every rehearsal, and every instructor stirred my hunger for knowledge while feeding my desire for achieving excellence as a Music Educator.  

Honestly, the workload kicked my butt! Yet, it was totally my fault. I'm sure I could have taken easier roads, skimmed through readings and still met the requirements of my classes.  However, there was something so powerful and so drawing about being at VanderCook.  I felt so motivated to give more than just 100%.  I felt like I wasn't working just for my sake, but I was working for my colleagues, my students, our profession, and the future of Music Education. These feelings drove me to reach beyond the requirements, to practice a little more, to research the research, to question the authorities, to dig, dig, dig and find the answers.

The instructors were all so easy going, like the delicate lady in the Intro to Graduate Studies class, but they set off fires and lightbulbs with the simplest words and thoughts. The knowledge they possessed was unreal!  They opened my eyes to things that I never really gave much thought to, but now I feel like I cannot go on teaching without using this knowledge.  We laughed, we learned, and when it was all over for the day I was left feeling so full that I could have exploded.  Every class, every private lesson, every rehearsal, every instructor, everyday for six weeks!

My colleagues and I motivated each other and worked to push each other.  We developed trust in each other in that we knew that each person was there for the same reason, to get an understanding and move to the next higher level.  We questioned each other, checked each other, collaborated, and worked as a unit.  We were teachers and we were students.  We gave each other permission to develop. We laughed, we learned, and when it was over for the day we said, "Have a good evening, get some rest, and see you in the morning," knowing that each other was ending the day a bit wiser than they had began. We celebrated each other and watched each other grow.

This summer has, no doubt, been the most influential summer of my professional career.  I am so excited to put what I have learned into practice.  I'm stronger, wiser, and getting ever so closer to that mark of excellence.  I can't WAIT until next summer at VanderCook!"

MARK HOLLANDSWORTH, M '13

Hollandsworth,_M"I was quite impressed with the professionalism and practicality that VanderCook offered.  Thus far, I feel as though my time and money have been well spent, as I have been armed with a great deal of knowledge and materials that I will be able to transfer into my teaching immediately.

The workload was appropriate but demanding.  Expect to spend a lot of time doing homework, research, and practicing.  Like anything else, you get of it what you put into it. 

In addition to the expertise that the staff provided, it was also enriching to collaborate with so many fine musicians and educators in the classroom and ensembles.  The respect between peers was evident as well as critical, as there were several projects that required peer-editing or collaboration. 

I am currently teaching grades 5-12 band in southeast Michigan, so living in Chicago for the summer was a treat.  I actually stayed off-campus in a room rented in a house.  I found the accommodations to be more than adequate, very close to campus, and about 1/2 the price of the dorms.  That being said, there are many fine options for lodging in the city, and getting around is very easy. 

For practicality, professionalism, and pertinence, I would highly recommend the Master's Program to prospective students, and am looking forward to completing my degree soon."

JIM MULLEN, M '14

Mullen_studentsJames Mullen earned a BM Music Education from SUNY Potsdam and has been teaching for over 30 years.  Jim currently teaches at Calvary Christian Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, FL where he and his wife also reside.

"With over 30 years of teaching experience, it is easy to feel as if “additional graduate instruction” is unnecessary, too late, or not going to make any difference at this point. However, if you HAVE been in the field and consider yourself a veteran music educator, then you also realize how much you still need to know.

I still love teaching music to kids and making a difference in their lives and in the life of the school. I also enjoy playing in our community’s concert and jazz bands. So, when the opportunity to actually attend a school whose 96+ years being entirely focused on furthering music education through challenging courses and ensembles taught by top professional educators was presented to me, I became very interested to say the least. And the more I investigated, the more I realized that two six-week summer intensive programs, with the prospect of collaborating AND making music with fellow music educators, is superior to a continuous two-year exclusively online environment.

The workload at VanderCook is demanding but focused on practical techniques and skills you can begin using with your students as soon as the school year begins. From instrumental or vocal techniques, chamber or large ensemble literature, honing conducting skills, to investigating ways to help your students deepen their understanding of music and its place in our lives personally, historically, culturally, and in our communities, VanderCook’s unique program certainly exceeded my expectations!

Another plus is, simply, Chicago in the summertime! The free, or nearly free music events of all styles and genres by top soloists and ensembles just a short distance from the school (Chicago Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Jazz Showcase, Ravinia, etc.) was a great way to recharge, unwind, and stay inspired during the fast-paced six weeks. The museums and aquarium are world class, the waterfront and skyline are very impressive, and the restaurants—wow! I experienced a first this summer when I had the good fortune of tasting Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza and loved it—both times I went!

Being from Florida, I had no idea where I would be staying or how I would get around once in Chicago. There are several housing programs connected to VanderCook through Illinois Institute of Technology and the Illinois College of Optometry. I opted for a private room within a two-room suite in the dormitory for a very reasonable rate and, with only a little guidance, easily navigated the city’s rail and bus system, which is, no doubt, one of the best in the world. All in all, I had a great experience and look forward to the return and completion of this exceptional program."

Elizabeth Reineke, M '14

Reineke"VanderCook is a place where teachers learn how to be better teachers.  From the initial stages in the application process to my studies in the heart of a six-week residency, I found the faculty and staff were nothing but welcoming, helpful, and encouraging during the whole process.

I love the set-up of the summers only residency to work on a masters degree.  This unique design allows me to focus on my students and teach during the school year while being able to focus on my own professional and personal development during the summer.  While there is a set of required core classes for each track, there is still enough flexibility in the program to personalize it for my needs.

During the school year, I teach halfway across the country.  Working on my masters degree at a school far from home without a car has not served as a hindrance; Chicago’s public transportation system is easily accessible from campus.  If anything, it has allowed opportunities to see and experience in a new city in a whole new way.  There is a lot Chicago has to offer!

We, the teachers, work in a very people oriented field, and we spend a large majority of our time focused serving the needs of others-our students, their families, the school staff, and the community.  The masters program at VanderCook allows us, the teachers, to do something for ourselves and focus on our own betterment for six weeks during the summer.  My time at VanderCook allowed an opportunity to “step back” and reflect on my teaching, my values, and the purpose of music education.  My time at VanderCook affirmed how valuable a music teacher’s job really is; we have a privilege of passing music along to the next generation.  Music speaks in a way words cannot transcend.   VanderCook will provide the tools needed in making teachers better teachers; they will motivate and inspire teachers to strive for excellence, and they will remind teachers the value of the profession."

MIKE YAROS, M '13

IMG_0628Mike Yaros is a BMEd graduate of Central Michigan University and fourth year teacher.  A horn player and vocalist who has also spent time studying composition and jazz studies, Mike resides in Lapeer, Michigan with his wife, Cristen, and son, Atticus.

GETTING A MASTER'S DEGREE IS A BIG DECISION.  WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU?  After three years of teaching I felt ready to take the next step into pursuing a master’s degree.  In these uncertain economic times, how was I to quit school and study?  Earning a master’s degree was extremely important to me, but I felt nervous about abandoning my job.

Luckily, I found that there were a few universities in Michigan that offered summer master’s programs.  They seemed extremely expensive and I kept running into challenges finding what I was looking for.  After shopping around I settled on a big name university and applied to their summer program.  About three months into the application process I had not heard anything from the university and a friend suggested I look in to VanderCook College of Music.  “It’s all about music education,” they explained.  I remembered getting a pamphlet in the mail about MECA classes, and thought, “This is what I need.”  After doing a little research on the VanderCook website I found the prices to be very reasonable, and if I enrolled, I would get to study in Chicago!  It seemed like a no-brainer to me.  I applied in one evening, sent all my materials, and violá – in two short weeks I was accepted.  I canceled my request to the other university and enrolled at VanderCook.  I was very surprised that I was able to communicate with all the faculty directly via phone, and was treated like a person and not a number.

WHAT WAS THE MOST BENEFICIAL CLASS YOU'VE TAKEN?  I would say all of them have refreshed and enhanced my style, but in particular Dean Rhodes’ Woodwind Methods, and Dr. Menghini’s Curriculum and Administration classes were courses that immediately enabled me to take my students to the next level.  I thoroughly enjoyed their teaching style and approach, and it was fun and stimulating to listen to their lectures from day to day.  They were not easy, but I enjoyed the challenge and felt equipped with more knowledge to aid the struggling student.

ANY "AHA!" MOMENTS SO FAR?  There were many!  I no longer have to beat my fists in frustration when my clarinets have airy tone!  I feel I can successfully diagnose and correct most woodwind tone and embouchure problems as a direct result of Dean Rhodes’ class.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND OUR PROGRAM TO COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS?  Absolutely!  In fact, I have already done so to many of my colleagues, and have posted my lauds of VanderCook in several situations on the Facebook Band Director’s Page to get the word out.  I am proud of the choice I made and the education I am receiving!

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?  I think VanderCook is the best solution for music educators to advance their skill sets and further the number of their credit hours for professional development.  Other programs have copied VanderCook’s 3-year summer masters program format, but none compare!  "Learning it Live" in Chicago is an experience that is unmatched.  There is no need to take online courses that aid only in advancing your pay rate, and then having the feeling of “What did I spend my money on?” afterward. 

VanderCook offers real-time and hands-on practical courses (in addition to offering successful online courses) that make a lasting impression.  The learner is surrounded by colleagues in the same field.  These connections make for immediate and lasting friendships, and extend one’s network to not just the edges of the learner’s home state, but the nation, and even the world.  VanderCook’s unique learning track offers specific instruction in vocal, instrumental and now elementary music - something for everyone!  As an instrumentalist, I was amazed by how I was drawn to seek knowledge in fields that were not my own.  Dr. Sinclair is a fantastic vocal professor, and has the ability to articulate instruction with more clarity than any voice professor I have known.  He represents the rule at VanderCook - not the exception like you would find at most universities and colleges.  I happily endorse VanderCook and believe I could convert any skeptic in under 15 minutes!

 
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