Meet Our Students
DIANA ROTI, B '14
Meet VanderCook's 2012-2013 Poster Girl
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I'm from a tiny city called Hometown on the South side of Chicago and I found out about VanderCook from my mom researching music schools in the Chicago area. The funny thing is when she first told me about VCM in my junior year of high school, I denied it right away claiming I didn't want to be a music teacher. However, I had a change of heart in the next year and scheduled an audition, and it turns out I'm on the new poster!
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? I chose VanderCook because when I first walked into the building, all of the faculty and staff were welcoming and made me feel very comfortable and gave me the sense that I belong here.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VANDERCOOK EXPERIENCE? The VanderCook experience is different than any other college because once you attend VanderCook, you have connections for life! The relationships you make with your teachers and peers become permanent and it's wonderful to have that support to go back to. Being such a small school, it feels like a big extended family.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE AT VANDERCOOK? One of my most memorable moments at VanderCook was after a performance in front of my peers and I wasn't feeling too great about it. I felt I could have perfomed better, but my applied lesson teacher, Dr. Hung, came up and gave me a big hug congratulating me. That increased my confidence and it felt good to have that support.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? Music is important to me because it gives me a way to really express my feelings without saying them out loud. I can be shy and quiet at times, and when I need an outlet, I can always play or listen to music and feel so much better.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY? I have definitely had some challenges during my journey here at VanderCook, most of which I'm still struggling with. Getting over stage fright, handling my time management, and how to deal with the stress of a busy schedule are some of my challenges. I'm a visual learner, so I find that if I write everything down, it helps me to manage my schedule better, but another challenge of mine is how to organize everything that I write down!
WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? When I graduate, I would like to teach either elementary or middle school band and continue to teach private piano lessons too.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? When I'm not in class, I really enjoy baking, cooking, riding my bike, working out and spending time with my friends and family; all things that are relaxing!
TAYIIB DAUDA, B '13
"Music is my hobby and my love, so... why not make it my profession?"
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I was born in San Diego, CA and moved to Las Vegas, NV for middle school and high school. During my high school years, I had two amazing band directors who were both VCM alums.
WHO INFLUENCED YOU TO BECOME A MUSIC TEACHER? My father got me into playing music around the age of 10; however, I had no intention of becoming a teacher until I met my two high school band directors - Dr. Logan Biles and Jorge Lopez.
AT VANDERCOOK YOU GET TO PLAY IN BAND AND ORCHESTRA AS WELL AS SING IN CHOIR. WHAT ABOUT THIS DO YOU LIKE? Playing in all of the ensembles helps you become a more rounded musician and, in turn, a more rounded teacher. As a band director, singing is a very important and underrated skill that you should have. You don't realize how much you sing to demonstrate ideas and phrase shapes from the podium until you are actually up there. It might not be until then that you appreciate the 5 semesters you had to sing in choir, but I promise you will be thankful. This is just one of the many things that VanderCook does to build the skill sets of their students to put us at the top of the competition.
WHAT MAKES CHICAGO SUCH AN ATTRACTIVE CITY IN WHICH TO GO TO SCHOOL? Chicago is a very cultured city. It is THE place to be for musicians. There are many opportunities to play, teach lessons and engulf yourself in music here. Plus, the public transportation is fantastic - You can get almost anywhere pretty easily. The weather isn't terrible either.
DO YOU COMMUTE OR LIVE ON CAMPUS? WHY AND WHERE? My freshman year, I lived on campus. I was new to Chicago and I didn't know anyone. It was a great way to meet people and get accustomed to the new city. After two semesters on campus I got an apartment off campus but I wouldn't really call it commuting because it is only about a 7 minute walk from VCM. I moved into an apartment because it is far less expensive than living in the dorms and it is still in walking distance. Even though the dorms are expensive, I recommend them for freshmen students. This way you can get to know people and have that "college experience". This will also help you make decisions on prospective roommates if and when you choose to get an apartment.
WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH? My initial desire was to become a high school band director teaching somewhere on the west coast. I wanted to teach close to home - either San Diego or Las Vegas. However, after 3 years at VCM I actually want to stay in Chicago and teach band at any age group.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? I enjoy playing video games, but even then I always have music playing in the background. This may sound cliché, but honestly when I am not consumed by school I am probably listening to or playing music. Music is my hobby and my love, so I figured why not make it my profession.
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.
MAX DYKLA, B '14
"I chose VanderCook because... I completely agreed with their passion and complete focus towards music education."
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VANDERCOOK? I'm from Belding, Michigan. After talking to my band director about potential schools and finding out that almost every music teacher in my school district has been to VanderCook at some point, I figured it would be worth my while to look into it.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE VANDERCOOK? First, I chose VanderCook because of its small size and the close, intimate feel expressed by the students, faculty, and staff. Second, I completely agreed with their passion and complete focus toward music education.
WHAT MAKES YOUR EDUCATION AT VANDERCOOK SO ENJOYABLE? Every day at VanderCook is spent doing what I enjoy most: music from every angle possible.
AT VANDERCOOK YOU GET TO PLAY IN BAND AND ORCHESTRA AS WELL AS SING IN CHOIR. WHAT ABOUT THIS DO YOU LIKE? VanderCook gives you the opportunity to be in every ensemble, regardless of your major instrument. If you're in an ensemble that is new to you, you're still around others who are in the same boat; it is a constant, collective learning experience.
WHY IS MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? I believe music is the most visceral form of expression and can be felt by everyone, regardless of personal musical ability.
WHAT MAKES CHICAGO SUCH AN ATTRACTIVE CITY TO GO TO SCHOOL? Chicago is ripe with opportunities; it is big without being overwhelming.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT STUDYING OR ATTENDING CLASS, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES? I love exploring the city and its sprawling suburbs. Whether it's browsing through unique stores on the Northside or catching student rush tickets to a show or concert, there are countless opportunities to keep you busy and entertained.
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.