Updated: Feb 18
In August 2016, I arrived in Princeton for my year as a postgraduate fellow at the New School. When I decided to move across the country for this immersive year of teaching and learning, I never could have imagined how that year would change my teaching and the trajectory of my life. I had just finished my masters degree, and though I knew I’d pursue a life in music, I was burnt out by my studies and I wasn’t sure what a life in music would look like for me. The energy, creativity, and passion of the New School faculty is contagious, and after a mere few weeks in Princeton, it was clear that music teaching would be central to the rest of my life.
I was immediately struck by the integrity and camaraderie of the faculty. Regardless of the age, level, or dedication of the student, New School teachers thoughtfully planned each lesson and sought innovative ways to reach the students they were entrusted with. As a young teacher, my knowledge of repertoire was limited, but when I had questions about appropriate pieces for my students, fellow faculty members were eager to offer suggestions and tips. I was inspired to see that though teachers set high standards for their students, joy was also found in the small victories in lessons with beginning and advanced students alike. Beautiful music oozed out of every studio at every level.
The opportunity to work closely with Amy Glennon as my teaching mentor is something I deeply cherish. Through our weekly meetings and observations, and through planning and co-teaching class, I got to see the inner workings of one of the most dedicated, caring, and creative teachers I know. Not only did she have a trick for every musical, technical, or reading challenge I presented her with, she demonstrated how to bring a lesson to life. As I struggled through the nuts and bolts of introducing new concepts, she reminded me that I needed more “romance” in my teaching, and encouraged me to connect with students over the beautiful, expressive capabilities of the music. I saw this in action as I watched the Time to Begin students’ eyes light up as Amy told them the story of the Schumanns or demonstrated the swaying leaves of the weeping willow. Every day teaching with Amy felt new and exciting, because she approached every lesson as a new and exciting opportunity.
Saying “you had to be there” feels like a bit of a cop-out, but there’s a magic at the New School that you “have to be there” to experience. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded daily by excellent teachers whose studio doors are open for conversation, friendship, and mentorship. Through my experience as a postgraduate fellow, I gained not only practical teaching skills I’ll utilize for the rest of my professional life, but I also gained a fresh, joy-filled approach to teaching music that I’ll carry with me forever.
Allison Shinnick is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Michigan, where she studies piano with Dr. Arthur Greene and pedagogy with Dr. John Ellis. She obtained her Master of Music in Piano Performance from University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, where she studied piano with Dr. Robert Weirich and pedagogy with Dr. Diane Petrella. Allison completed a Bachelor of Music degree from Lawrence University Conservatory of Music (Appleton, WI) with majors in piano performance and oboe performance and a minor in German. She studied piano with Dr. Catherine Kautsky, oboe with Howard Niblock, and pedagogy with Mary Van De Loo.
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