Meet Our Students
AMBER LOVE, B '16
"VanderCook is one big family and I feel right at home every time I walk through the doors!"
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I was born in Bremerhaven, Germany and lived most of my life in Plainfield, Illinois. I first found out about VanderCook from my middle school band director who was a VCM alum. Throughout my band programs I was fortunate enough to attend many clinics and festivals held at VanderCook.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? I knew VanderCook was the right place for me from the first phone call I received from my applied lesson teacher, Mr. Riordan. The faculty and staff were so welcoming and friendly on the phone and in person. VanderCook is one big family and I feel right at home every time I walk through the doors!
WHAT MAKES YOUR EDUCATION AT VANDERCOOK SO ENJOYABLE? My education at VanderCook is enjoyable because we are all choosing a career path that we love and are working together every step of the way.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE AT VANDERCOOK? My most memorable moment at VanderCook was when the VanderBones trombone choir had the opportunity to attend and perform at the Trombone and Euphonium Conference held at EIU.
WHAT MAKES CHICAGO SUCH AN ATTRACTIVE CITY IN WHICH TO GO TO SCHOOL? Chicago is an attractive city to attend school in because it is overflowing with culture. Around every corner there is something to do or see. My top recommendation is for students to purchase discount tickets to see the CSO perform or rehearse. If you are looking for free events there are lists online that include free museum days, architecture tours, festivals and performances at Grant and Millennium Park.
WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? When I graduate, I would like to continue my education and pursue a graduate degree in music performance.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? Some of my favorite activities outside of school are bike riding, cliff jumping, playing with local music groups, and spending time with family and friends.
LUCAS BAUER, B '18
"We are not just students at VanderCook, we are future educators. We are all here to learn, help, and teach."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I am from Princeton, Illinois. I heard about VanderCook from my choral director, Brandon Crawford (B '05). He was my high school director and my role model throughout high school. I also knew Dr. Sinclair from clinics and some ACDA conventions. They both had a great influence on my life and the direction it is going.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? I had a lot of opportunities when it came to college. I went on many college visits but nothing compares to VanderCook. As soon as I walked in the doors I felt at home. The students and professors were so inviting and kind that I felt like I was already a student! Whenever I went on a visit with another school I felt like a number. There was no connection with the professors or the school itself. This just helped me solidify my choice with VanderCook. The staff kept up with me even after my visit by emailing me and thanking me for coming. I chose VanderCook because it will make me the most well rounded teacher I can be. At VanderCook you leave certified to teach K-12 general music, choir, band, and orchestra. You also learn all the instruments so you can help your future students with whatever they need. This puts you in high demand. VanderCook is a family, and it was the best decision I've made.
AT VANDERCOOK YOU GET TO PLAY IN BAND AND ORCHESTRA AS WELL AS SING IN CHOIR. WHAT ABOUT THIS DO YOU LIKE? Being exposed to band, orchestra, and choir is a wonderful experience. As a vocal major I do not have the most experience in band or orchestra. After being in band for one year my eyes have been opened and my knowledge expanded more than I could have imagined. This concept gives you the hands on experience In all fields of music, again putting you in higher demand when it comes time to go out and teach.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? Music has always had a way of making me calm. There is something about music that puts my heart at ease. I have had music in my life for as long as I could remember. It has made me see the light on even the darkest of days and has helped me make new relationships. Music has brought me to places I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go without it. I have a strong passion for music and it has helped me throughout my life, whether that be with meeting people, new experiences, or becoming a better person.
DO YOU COMMUTE OR LIVE ON CAMPUS? WHY AND WHERE? I live in an apartment about 15 minutes away from the school. For my freshmen year I lived in the dorms. I wanted to live in the dorms so I could get acquainted with the area I was in. Plus, the school is an eight minute walk from the dorms so I never had to worry about how to get home because it was so close. I met a lot of cool people in the dorms and it was a good experience, but I am happy that I have an apartment now.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO'S STARTING THEIR COLLEGE SEARCH WHAT WOULD IT BE? Go to a place where you feel like family, not a number. You don’t want to pay all this money just to hate it one semester in. Go to college where the professors care about each student and will do anything to help you. You are in charge of your education and your future. This is a big decision so make sure you are happy with your choice!
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? I love to hang out with my friends. Whether that be just hanging around and watching a movie or going into the city and walking around. The one thing I do when I don’t have anything going on is sleep. I love to sleep and I take every chance I get. You will understand when you get to college that sleep is a delicacy.
ABI FERNANDEZ, B '14
International student, pianist, and vocalist with a newly acquired love of the trombone.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE, but I'm a citizen of the Philippines. I found out about VanderCook when my friend handed me a book listed with thousands of colleges. I went straight to the arts section and went through all the universities listed for music and I came across VanderCook College of Music.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? I feel as though music is part of me. That is to say that I couldn't live without it in my life. I can hear it everywhere, the low hum of the AC, the rustling of the leaves in the trees, it is part of us and the environment we live in. It is a form of expression and conversation. Imagine if we were all born with expressionless faces, if everything was white or black, if food didn't have different flavors or taste. No one would ever know when one was happy or sad, no one would see the beauty of flowers or the sea, no one would be able to differentiate between dirt or a cool, creamy ice cream.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT HERE AT VANDERCOOK? Definitely the first time playing the trombone. It was my first wind instrument and the instrument that I had to play in band. I took one look at it and thought, "How the heck do you make a sound on this thing?" But under the guidance of the low brass instructor, Mr. Young, and several helpful peers, I managed to get through it and was able to play most of the band music by the time The Midwest Clinic came around.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? Hectic. There are a lot of things thrown in your way while you are here, studying at VanderCook. It just prepares you for how life would be as a teacher. Constantly on the go, preparing for the next step.
WHAT MAKES CHICAGO A GREAT CITY IN WHICH TO GO TO COLLEGE? Chicago has the CSO. What more can you ask for? Mind-blowing and inspiring performances at a discounted student rate, it's a great way to pass the time and experience what great orchestra would sound like. They also hold open rehearsals so you can actually see how they rehearse. It's a great learning experience.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY? I have had my fair share of challenges and break downs, being so far away from my family and all. There are times when I practice and I feel like I've hit a plateau. Life is very hectic and sometimes you feel as though there isn't time to take care of yourself but you just have to remember to slow down and take everything in stride. I find that talking to faculty, friends and family really helps relieve the pressure.
WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? If given the opportunity, I would love to stay in Chicago and teach private piano lessons or high school choir.
WHAT DO YOU DO BESIDES MUSIC? I'm an avid photographer. I wouldn't consider myself a professional but a very enthusiastic hobbyist. I just love how you can capture a moment, expression or feeling at the push of a button.
QUINN CAVALLO, B '18
"I immediately fell in love with everything VanderCook had to offer."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I am from Davidson, North Carolina. My mom did a google search of the top schools for music education in the country. VanderCook was near the top of the list so we decided to look more into it and saw it was a perfect fit.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? My VanderCook experience so far has been a controlled chaos. It's chaotic because there is so much going on, but it's controlled because everything is organized. I wouldn't want to have it any way because it is teaching us how to be better teachers even though we're not always in a classroom "learning".
WHAT MAKES YOUR EDUCATION AT VANDERCOOK SO ENJOYABLE? The staff here at VanderCook is what makes my education so enjoyable. All of the staff is so nice and approachable; they will really help you with anything you need. They're not just teachers here, they are inspirations and role models - people who we all look up to and aspire to be.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT AT VANDERCOOK? I was in the lobby one day putting on my jacket when I accidentally hit the fire alarm. This wasn't a normal fire alarm, however, so I just switched it off. It didn't really seem like a big deal; however, at the same moment I hit the fire alarm Dr. Menghini walked through the door. I was so embarrassed and trying to figure out what to say because I didn't mean to hit it, it just kind of happened. Dr. Menghini said, "Did you just want to see what it did?", laughed, and then continued to do what he needed to do. This was very memorable because I thought I was going to get in trouble because of course the one time I accidentally hit the fire alarm the president of the school walks by, but instead of being mad or upset, he was very funny about.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? Music is important to me because it's what I've grown up around. My mom always tells me this story of how she signed me up for KinderMusic and after the first class, the teacher came up to her and said that I was the only one who could keep a beat. I was 5. After that, she signed me up for piano lessons. Plot twist, I hated it. She then signed me up again in 5th grade and I ended up quitting again, but I promised to sign up for band in middle school. I started out on trumpet and when the opportunity came where the band director, Ms. Petersen, told us that we needed a french horn player. I immediately went up to her to tell her that I would be happy to play the french horn. She recently told me that she was worried when I started out on french horn that she would have to tell me that my hands were too small because I could barely reach the valves. I was extremely short for my age. I guess you could say that music is so important to me is because I was immersed in it at a very young age and even though I tried to quit when I was little, I always came back to it for a reason and I am happy I did.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY? I have had multiple challenges along the way, but if everything was easy, that would be very boring. I may take my advice a little to literally because I definitely make more challenges than I need to. I kind of overreact to many things because I am a perfectionist so when something doesn't go as planned I stress myself out a little bit, but that's when my friends just help me out and tell me to take a breather.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? My favorite activities consist of sleeping, baking, but most importantly, I LOVE hanging out with my friends. They say that the friends you make in college are friends that will last a lifetime and I definitely believe that because the people I've met at VanderCook have been wonderful to me. I was so scared first coming here because I was so far away from home, but my friends make it feel like a home away from home.
ROBBI HICKS, B '18
"During the school year it's eat, sleep, music, and repeat... but I wouldn't have it any other way."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I'm from the small town of Morris, IL. I knew about VanderCook, because my high school band director, Don Stinson (B '07), attended school here.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? It's very intense. During the school year, it's eat, sleep, music, and repeat. It's busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
WHAT MAKES YOUR EDUCATION AT VANDERCOOK SO ENJOYABLE? The professors, by far. We get to work with some of the most talented musicians in the world, and it's so hands on. I find myself struggling to retain all the advice and knowledge provided (which is a fabulous problem).
AT VANDERCOOK YOU GET TO PLAY IN BAND AND ORCHESTRA AS WELL AS SING IN CHOIR. WHAT ABOUT THIS DO YOU LIKE? As a trumpet major, being in the other ensembles forces me to keep an open mind about the way other people learn. It's sort of like working out in the field before you become a manager.
WHAT MAKES CHICAGO SUCH AN ATTRACTIVE CITY IN WHICH TO GO TO SCHOOL? Coming from a farm town, I had always wanted to see what the city life is all about! I like the city because there's so much to do and so many interesting people. But my heart will always be with small towns.
DO YOU COMMUTE OR LIVE ON CAMPUS? WHY AND WHERE? I lived in the dorms last year, and this year I'm getting my first apartment in Chicago! It's important to me to live close to school so I can be in the building late to finish what I need to get done.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? Music is a refuge. Composer David Maslanka told us during a rehearsal that "Music transforms suffering," and I don't think it could have been said any better. There's no better therapy than picking up my trumpet.
WHEN YOU GRADUATE WHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? I want to teach at a rural K-8. I would love to be the main music person. I love little ones, and I would love to light the fire in their interest.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? I love going to concerts! Any type of live music is good music. I also like doing yoga, reading, and sleep!
ROBERT DEASON, B '17
"It's interesting to think that educators I look up to were in the same spot as I am a few years ago."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I'm originally from the northern suburbs of Chicago. My initial bachelor's degree is in Musical Theatre, and I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to act all over the country throughout the past several years, Recently, I was given the opportunity to work as an assistant director with multiple high school choral programs around Chicago, as well as directing a lot of different competitive extra curricular show choir programs. Getting to work with these programs made me realize that I have a passion for education. Several of my colleagues got their certification here at VanderCook, and had amazing things to say about the program.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? The caliber of people that I know who attended VanderCook is unmatched. There are so many amazing teachers I've come across who have attended this program. It's interesting to think that educators I look up to were in the same spot as I am a few years ago. The level of proficiency in VanderCook's graduates is MORE than enough reason to attend this program.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? Going to VanderCook has been a CRAZY transition. The breadth of knowledge and courses that are required keeps me on my toes at all times. Working so hard at something that means so much to you is a pretty profound feeling. It's been a scary but amazing new chapter in my life.
WHAT MAKES YOUR EDUCATION AT VANDERCOOK SO ENJOYABLE? The best thing about VanderCook, without question, is the people. From the faculty to the student body, it's exciting being surrounded by individuals who are just as passionate about music education as you are.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE AT VANDERCOOK? Getting to perform at the Midwest Band Clinic was a pretty memorable experience for me. Even as a choral major, the excitement of performing at the closing a week long conference in front of thousands of music educators from all over the country was a pretty incredible feeling!
DO YOU COMMUTE OR LIVE ON CAMPUS? WHY AND WHERE? I commute from the Northside (Andersonville). As a returning student, It's nice to go to a school that is so accommodating for commuters. Parking is easy and relatively inexpensive, and being so close to Lake Shore Drive makes the trip a piece of cake. Plus, I get to look at the skyline on my way to class every morning!
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? Music has been a huge part of my life ever since I was little. I grew up playing the piano and acting in lots of local musicals. Now as an adult, music is completely paying for my education. I work as a dueling pianist around the Chicago-land area, and I feel insanely lucky to be putting myself through school doing what I love to do. I don't know what I would do if music weren't such a huge part of my life.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY? Balancing the workload at Vandercook with the rest of my life was definitely a challenge initially. In addition to class, I play gigs 2-3 nights a week, and direct two different show choir programs in the suburbs. I found that I had to really take a close look at my daily schedule and make sure that I was allowing enough time to properly prepare for all of my courses, as well as practice all of my instruments.
YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO'S STARTING THEIR COLLEGE SEARCH WHAT WOULD IT BE? In the field of music education, the more hands on experience you can get, the better. Smaller programs like Vandercook really ensure that you get a ton of one-on-one time with faculty, allowing you to cultivate a network of professional relationships by the time you graduate. Find a program that is going to give you the amount of individualized attention that you need!
WHEN YOU GRADUATE WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? My family is from Chicago, so I would like to stay in or around the area, and teach High School choir. It would be great to develop a show choir curriculum within a school as well.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? I'm really into fitness! Yoga and running are two of my favorite past times (I recently completed by third Chicago Marathon). I also love to compose. Last summer, I was lucky enough to live in Atlanta while my first musical made its professional debut at a theatre there.