Music students give back to the community with private lessons

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Bethel College boasts an impressive lineup of music-related ensembles; however, the buck does not stop there. Many of the school’s music ensembles are filled with students who see it as their goal/calling in life to bring the love of music to others as well. As the academic year draws to a close, let's take a look at the students who will still go on teaching while they're doing their own studying. Junior music education major Leah Jordan and senior music education major Austin Mills both have a passion for music, teaching and providing music lessons for younger students. Jordan, a product of East Jordan, Mich. and its middle/high school’s music department, has been giving music lessons for the past two years. This Bethel student has become quite versatile in her music pursuits, playing a variety of instruments that she can also teach to her students. “I haven’t been asked about saxophone or clarinet lessons yet,” said Jordan, “but usually just piano lessons.” Though she attends Bethel College, a five-plus hour drive from her East Jordan home, she, like Mills, has found a niche within the Mishawaka area in order to continually teach and encourage the love of music in others. “I haven’t offered lessons to anyone from the area back home in East Jordan,” said Jordan. “It’s mainly just been in the area around here in the Mishawaka (area). I haven’t taught any Bethel students so far. Rachel Kennedy, who runs the learning commons, contacted me a couple of months ago about me teaching one of her daughters, but not a lot of real Bethel student connections.” “I have played (French) horn for 11 years and have been giving lessons for three years,” said Mills. “I am currently giving lessons to local high schoolers.” Both students discussed where their love of music originated. “I started piano lessons during the summer between my first and second grade years,” said Jordan with a smile. “So, a really long time for sure. I was in middle school band, and then high school band and pep band, learning the tenor saxophone. Now, I just do a lot of different things with music.” “When I took lessons in middle school I could not have imagined the idea of being a music teacher in general,” said Mills. “As I continued to play in band and be active in other musical events, I started to realize teaching students to love music is exactly what I want to do. I started giving lessons after working a few seasons with local marching bands. I found a few students that worked very hard but could not afford lessons so I offered lessons for free or much lower price.” As for teaching, Jordan believes it took her awhile before she realized teaching music was a part of her calling. Both Jordan and Mills spoke about how music lessons and music education became their reality. “I had students with a lot of talent that could not afford lessons,” said Mills. “Also, teaching private lessons gives me the opportunity to test new teaching methods and pedagogical theories. Two of my students are actually considering going to school for music themselves.” “I honestly didn’t ever really think about it,” said Jordan. “It was just something that I did every day and didn’t really expect anything else. Then, my sister became a teacher, and I really started to think about becoming a music teacher for myself. As I got more involved in middle and high school, I really started to consider doing the same thing as my sister and going to Bethel to become a music education major. It’s gone pretty well so far.” Jordan went on to explain how much of a learning curve it was for her to explain something she has known so well and for so long. “The youngest child I train has had no musical training whatsoever,” said Jordan. “She hasn’t even had any sort of rhythm training or anything, so it’s really hard at times to know how to teach that. I’ve been doing music for so long, it has pretty much been ingrained into me.” Jordan continued, “It’s really hard. We have some African drums in the music room that we have had to get out before and get a backbeat going. One time we brought the drum into the practice room, and I played eighth notes, while she did her thing on the piano. It was definitely hard at first, but it got to be fun.” Mills and Jordan discussed what music truly means to them. “Music represents some of the greatest achievements in human history,” said Mills. “It is an outlet students can use to express themselves in a nonverbal manner. I feel called towards music because of the joy I and students get when they play a piece of music and it sounds great. “Music is a lot of different things to me, but it is most importantly community,” said Jordan. “Whether it’s in a band or a choir or a close-knit ensemble like (Voices of Triumph), you get to know one another so well. You experience things that are rather inexplicable. The way you feel the music together, creating something out of nothing, is something I am very attracted to.” Mills plans on student-teaching at Mishawka High school in the fall, and then would like to find a teaching job and grow as an educator/musician. Jordan’s “five-year plan” involves higher education and becoming like one of her beloved Bethel College professors, too. “I’ve been thinking about going to graduate school and becoming a college professor,” said Jordan with a smile. “I aspire to be the next Rob Rhein.” Both Mills and Jordan see themselves teaching lessons for as long as they are able. “I enjoy having one-on-one time with students, because it allows me to really push each student in areas they need help and continually encourage them to grow as musicians,” said Mills. “As long as I am able, I would like to teach private lessons.” “I definitely can see myself teaching lessons for a long time,” said Jordan. “It’s not time-consuming, I get money out of it and I’m able to pass along the knowledge of music to others.”
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