A Century of Music Ed Celebrated at Oberlin
By Julie Sabatier

Faculty, alumni and students will gather in Kulas Recital Hall this Saturday to celebrate 100 years of music education at Oberlin.
The Conservatory was the first in the nation to offer a four-year college degree program in music education. Professor of Music Education Jody Kerchner said the program attracts, “students who are highly gifted performers and want to teach.” She stressed that this is a combination that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Every music education course from the first semester onward requires students to participate in fieldwork, another aspect of the program that is unique to Oberlin. Students observe teachers and participate in classrooms in and around Oberlin leading small groups of students in singing exercises and helping them learn to hold their instruments correctly. “Over the years, the field experience has become more practical and more varied,” Kerchner said.
Co-authors and Conservatory professors Kay Edwards, Joanne Erwin, Jody Kerchner and John Knight kept their own field experiences in mind when they collaborated on the new textbook Prelude to Music Education. The book, which was three years in the making, was released by Prentice-Hall just two weeks ago.
According to Joanne Erwin, director of the Music Education department, it is already being used in Oberlin classes and several other schools have expressed interest in it as well. “This book is very practical rather than philosophical,” Erwin said. Each chapter opens with a classroom scenario. “The goal is to have first-year College students thinking, what would it be like to be in that room,” she added.
The book will be presented by music education faculty members at the conclusion of Saturday’s day-long celebration. The day will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a video titled Remembering Oberlin History. The 10-minute video consists of interviews with current and emeritus professors of music education at Oberlin. It was created by fifth-year TIMARA and music education double-major Suzanna Sitomer in conjunction with Erwin. Sitomer said she is excited to share this project with the community. “I think a lot of people don’t know how many cool things got started at Oberlin,” she said.
After the video, the first Music Education Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to emeritus professor of eurhythmics and Oberlin grad Herbert Henke. In honor of this award, a brick with Henke’s name on it will be placed on the “Walk of Fame” at the National Headquarters for Music Education in Reston, Virginia.
Following the award ceremony, members of the current music education faculty will lead workshops in their various spheres of study. “This will give participants a flavor of who we are as a faculty,” Kerchner said.
After lunch, there will be an alumni panel discussion on the topic, “After Oberlin: What Music Education Taught Me.” The discussion will give alumni a chance to share their experiences with current students and relate how Oberlin helped prepare them for their teaching careers.
All the events planned for Saturday are designed to give an overview of music education at Oberlin and how it has developed over a century of teaching and learning. The audience members will include accreditors from the Ohio State Board of Education who will be on campus. “The content is kind of geared towards the accreditors,” Sitomer said. “We have to prove [to them] that we are just as good as those other departments.”
The state board was not concerned with music education until eight years ago, when the U.S. adopted national standards in arts and education. “The national standards haven’t really changed what we’re doing, but they have focused and specified it,” Erwin said.
The music education department has experienced some changes in recent years. Kerchner said there has been a shift in strategies for teaching choral ensembles as well as more attention paid to preparing students for dealing with children with special learning needs.
“Overall, things haven’t changed that much,” Erwin said. “What was important 100 years ago is still important now. I think that this department is the most natural outgrowth of [Oberlin]’s mission of changing the world.”

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