Meet our Students - Kristen Hjelmaas
KRISTEN HJELMAAS, B '14
"Music is important to me... I'm not even sure what I would do without it."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I'm from Overland Park, Kansas and first found out about VanderCook through my own online college search. It met my specifications for colleges so I added it to a list. It was after this that I asked a few teachers that I knew in the area and found out that they were actually supporters of the school.
WHO INFLUENCED YOU TO BECOME A MUSIC TEACHER? Many teachers throughout my K-12 education inspired me to want to teach. More specifically, my band director and a marching instructor that I had for my first years of high school made me lean towards music education. Their passion for music and desire to share that was undeniable. I wanted to emulate some of these teachers. But, looking back, my least favorite teachers influenced me as well. I saw these teachers as people that I wanted to overcome, people that I wanted to learn from, but to rise above and beyond in the end.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? I realize now that I chose VanderCook because from the time I heard about what the school was doing, it seemed like the right place for me. The comprehensive learning environment really does help you become a comprehensive teacher. Even when other schools seemed more practical financially, I just couldn't stop coming back to VanderCook as my best option.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? The VanderCook experience is most definitely very unique. You are surrounded all day, every day, by people that are all working to accomplish the same things and degree program that you are. This fosters a unique sense of camaraderie that is difficult to replicate. This exists not just among students, but within the faculty and staff of the school as well. Our teachers are music teachers and we are working and learning to, hopefully, become their colleagues.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE CLASS OR TEACHER AND WHY? My favorite class at VanderCook thus far has been music theory because of the teacher, Ms. Krupa. Her exuberant personality and boundless energy make learning theory fun. From the beginning she encouraged my class to leave behind our theory knowledge from previous courses and start from scratch. This really helped me to go beyond my prior knowledge to understand the concepts more in depth.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY? I admit that I have had my fair share of challenges. With such an intense program, it is hard not to. In the past two years I have become so overwhelmed that I have come close to giving up. Thankfully, through the guidance of friends and supportive faculty members I have been able to keep my head on straight and remember why we do what we do here.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? When I am not studying or attending class I enjoy exploring the city, reading, and playing the ukulele.