Sumner Truax, '11
It’s safe to say that the Lawrence music education program has influenced me at virtually every turn since I matriculated in 2007. I came into LU as a BA major, having been rejected from the BM program, and pretty sure that I was going to get some sort of degree in the college and play as much jazz saxophone as I could. During my time at Lawrence, I had the privilege of studying with some professors who not only reshaped the way I view the saxophone and music, but also exposed me to a world of exciting, engaging, and meaningful music making I had never previously known.
After finally passing my qualifying exam at the beginning of my junior year and becoming a performance major, I began to think about adding an education major because it seemed like a smart thing to do. I figured, “I like kids, I’ll probably like teaching band.” After taking a pedagogy class, I was completely hooked. Teaching became a complex combination of performing, preparing, communicating, problem solving, and coaching. The rehearsal process ceased to be a haze, and I could clearly see specific techniques conductors were using to solve issues. I began to look at my lessons in a new way, seeing how things were simplified so that I could succeed; observing teachers at other schools became endlessly fascinating (watching Cheryl Meyer, a local general music teacher, effortlessly manage 25 kindergarteners remains one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen); figuring out how to work with LU freshman in aural skills and theory classes became an engaging puzzle.
As I got deeper into the music education program at LU, I realized that in addition to learning about music, becoming a better musician, and becoming a better teacher, I was becoming a better thinker. I started to look at problems from various angles, and distill complex issues into simple, coherent pieces and communicate them clearly. The LU music education program fostered a deeper love and appreciation for music and art than I ever could have imagined. It instilled in me a sense that as educators, it is our duty to ensure that, even if they only get it for a second as kindergarteners, or in middle school band or orchestra, or high school choir, students experience the joy that comes from interacting with music at a deep level. It’s a joy that I am fortunate enough to experience on a regular basis, and it’s a joy that we are obligated to share with others.
After Lawrence, I attended the Eastman School of Music where I received a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance and literature as well as a certificate in Arts Leadership. While at Eastman, I had the opportunity to work with college students in one-on-one saxophone instruction, as well as use some of the other extra-musical skills I had gained from Lawrence to do grant writing and fundraising for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hochstein School of Music & Dance. It is a huge honor and a privilege to be back at Lawrence to teach saxophone and work with the same incredible colleagues who inspired me to become a teacher in the first place.