Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 NMTA Guest Clinician: Learning from one another

A few days ago, readers were treated to the interview with composer Kurt Knecht as he shared with us about the cello sonata he wrote for the upcoming conference. Today, we get to read an interview with Gail Berenson, the guest clinician at this year’s NMTA Conference (conference details here).

Gail Berenson - Guest Clinician for the
2014 NMTA Conference
photo courtesy of NMTA
Berenson, Professor Emerita at Ohio University, Athens, is a past-president of Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) and enjoys performing and teaching pedagogy. For this conference, she wants to help get teachers “thinking about how they approach their teaching from the various perspectives we will be discussing.” She adds, “in many cases, what I say will simply reinforce things that teachers are already doing.  I hope I might also provide a new way of viewing other ideas.  I certainly don't have all the answers, but in the open discussions we will be having, I hope to be learning as much from those in attendance as they do from me.”

With her background as a music teacher and past president of MTNA, Berenson is a big supporter of these professional organizations:

“I sincerely believe that one of the important aspects of being a professional is belonging to and supporting one’s professional organization.  MTNA has in turn  helped nurture my growth as a musician and pedagogue.  Since joining, as a very young faculty member still in my early 20's, I have always had the utmost respect for MTNA and the many services it provides its members, and have taken advantage of most of those services.  I attend local association workshops, state and national conferences, each event providing the opportunities to learn from a wide range of talented and dedicated clinicians and performers.  Aside from my formal studies, these educational experiences have resulted in countless positive changes in my teaching and my playing.  I read the American Music Teacher and MTNA's eJournal, two superb resources.  Having the privilege of taking on various leadership positions, it has enabled me to develop leadership skills and learn a tremendous amount about people and about myself.   Most of all, I treasure the many friends that I have met through MTNA, many of whom have become lifelong friends.  Having attended more than 30 MTNA National Conferences, returning each year feels like a fabulous family reunion! Becoming active in both MTNA your MTA state association, you will have the lifelong support of a professional partner.”

Surely, many teachers in NMTA can relate to and agree with Berenson’s positive experiences working with these organizations. Besides state conferences like the upcoming one, how many times teachers are presented with new ideas and ways of thinking about things—whether they are sharing and learning from one another or from the many guest speakers brought in for events.

And who ultimately benefits from MTNA and NMTA events?

“My students are the ultimate beneficiaries of all the pedagogical information I have heard at these meetings and workshops.  Even after all these years, I still come away with something new to integrate into my teaching.  Additionally, students benefit from the many MTNA and state association-sponsored student activities that provide numerous opportunities for students to perform in recitals, master classes, competitions and to receive feedback in non-competitive events. Collegiate students can form collegiate chapters, forging bonds with their peers and initiating meaningful projects that will benefit their community and help them grow as professional musicians.  They will have a network of colleagues and resources that follow with them wherever they their careers take them.”

Berenson’s own music experience began with piano lessons at age six: “I was good at it and enjoyed playing the piano.  As I got older, I especially loved making music with others.  I played violin in the orchestra, sang and played for the choir and accompanied all my friends and peers in solo and ensemble contests.  In fact, they often had to work the contest schedule around my performances since I was playing for so many students.  When the time arrived for me to select a major in college, it seemed to be a natural decision  - I would major in music.  It is interesting that neither of my parents had musical abilities, but both my sister and I ended up being professional musicians.  My sister is a violinist in the Atlanta Symphony (she also plays piano/keyboards for their pops concerts) and is highly in demand as a freelance accompanist in the Atlanta area.”

By participating in the conference and many other opportunities provided by NMTA, not only teachers benefit—we never know in how many ways music teachers affect and inspire their students.

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