Alumni Spotlight: Joan Fasullo
In celebration of our 60th anniversary, we will feature NSMS alumni as part of our Alumni Spotlight series throughout 2020.
Which years were you at NSMS?
I was at the school 1980-1983. I was a student '80-'82, then served as Chair of the Elementary Dept. '82-'83 while Frances, Louise and Sam worked on the NSMS Press publications Minor Masters, Musical Fingers, Sounds of Jazz and others.
My performance teacher was Sam Holland, but he, Louise Goss, and Frances Clark were my pedagogy teachers. I knew that studying there was an incredible privilege. First, I ended up as a student at NSMS in a rather fortuitous way involving a NSMS flier spied in a wastebasket by my piano teacher! Although I wasn't familiar with the New School, I had been a long-time reader of Frances' "Questions & Answers" column in Clavier. I recognized that I had been given a rare opportunity to learn from the foremost authority on teaching music at the piano - wow!
What is a favorite NSMS memory?
There are so many happy memories from my time at the NSMS that my favorite is hard to choose. One of the best involves the other first-year pedagogy student in 1980, Myrna Miller Eitzen, and Tomoko Tamura, a young teacher visiting from Tokyo. One day "Moko" shared with us that she was eagerly awaiting her very first Halloween here in the U.S. as they did not celebrate it in Japan. When she described the challenge of teaching the Time to Begin piece "Halloween," Myrna and I agreed immediately that, in good pedagogical form, Moko simply had to fully experience the holiday by trick-or-treating. Myrna and I were similar in height, and much shorter than Moko, so we settled on our masquerading as two little mice being led around on a leash by Moko, dressed as a cat. On October 31st as we started out to walk around my moonlit, leafy Princeton neighborhood, I felt a bit embarrassed - I was a 23-year-old adult canvassing for carbohydrates! However, Moko was utterly overjoyed, and we were resolved to give her that first, successful, American Halloween, so we timidly tiptoed on. It didn't take long for Myrna and me to realize that our rolled-up posterboard cone "snouts," "pipe cleaner "whiskers," and short stature disguised our age so well that most homeowners actually seemed to think we were children accompanied by our older sister! "Be careful crossing the street" and "Don't eat all of these treats tonight!" they called after us. We soon relished the game of seeing just how many Princeton residents would compliantly drop the sweets into our pillowcases! Though we ambled along for hours, Moko’s unwavering enthusiasm for the adventure lightened all of our steps and the bulging sacks we shouldered. Over the years Moko, Myrna and I lost touch with each other, but to this day I wonder if they think of that night when they present "Halloween."- I know I do!
What are you doing now?
Currently I'm in my 35th year as a faculty member at the Music School of Delaware. Having initiated the school's first group piano classes a while back, I'm currently teaching adults aged 50 years-and-up who are members of the University of Delaware's Osher Lifelong Learning Academy. At home on Valley Forge Mountain, Phoenixville, PA, I teach private students of all ages - children through 80-year-olds. A few years ago, I began offering lessons remotely, something that served me well when the pandemic forced us into quarantine this past spring. For the past few years, I've enjoyed arranging music for older adults, as well as developing a “blues piano” and a theory curriculum for those hobbyists. I accompany voice recitals, play at church services, and I enjoy providing background music at events in the PA/DE area.
What role does your education at NSMS play in your life today?
I often refer to my life as a teacher in terms of "Before the NSMS, and "After the NSMS." I have a picture of Frances and Louise displayed in my studio, and there isn't a day that I teach that I don't wonder - what would Frances, Louise, or Sam do with this student, this piece, this technique, etc. They set the gold standard by which I try to teach. There is no question that the training I received at NSMS gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of teaching in my own studio, thus laying the foundation for rest of my career. The time I was there has influenced me in countless other ways critical to my life. Most notably, it had a profound impact on the way my husband and I raised our four children. How valuable to me as a parent to have learned how to meet a child exactly where he is, not just where I want him to be. Without the NSMS experience I would not have learned how to evaluate a child's readiness to learn, not just music, but any subject. I would not have learned the importance of helping a child establish "habit" in his life, and the freedom that this discipline brings. As a mother, I ponder what I would have done if I hadn't learned how to employ the Socratic method of questioning, especially when dealing with teenagers! I could go on at length - how to evaluate the quality of a textbook, the true purpose of homework, how to teach anything with minimal technology etc. etc. In short, it's nearly impossible to adequately describe the role my time at NSMS has had on both my teaching career and my life as a parent.
I couldn't be prouder that two of our children were drawn to the teaching profession, and on their journeys together we have pondered and discussed ideas and philosophy I first encountered at the NSMS. Over the course of their undergraduate and graduate schooling my children and I enjoyed many engaging discussions about child development, the demand for good teaching at the beginning of any subject, preparation and follow-through, evaluating curriculums, and on and on. My daughter has even quoted Frances Clark in class discussions and a research paper! The joy these discussions have brought to our relationship is simply immeasurable; it is a treasure we'll enjoy for the rest of our lives. The influence the New School for Music Study has had will continue to flourish thanks to the great impact it has had on so many of us.
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