Connecting Students with the World through Music:
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Pamela Andrews
The GRAMMY Museum Foundation and the Recording Academy have chosen 10 finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award. Eight of the finalists are NAfME members as was last year’s winner, Keith Hancock of Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Teachers are encouraged to apply for the 2019 award by March 31 by visiting GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. Participating in the application process makes you part of our overall music education advocacy movement so teachers, apply this and every year.
Pamela Andrews received a Bachelor of Music Education degree at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. In recent years, Pamela achieved her Master of Arts degree in Music Education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has now taught elementary music for almost 20 years in Sumner County Schools and is the music specialist at Station Camp Elementary School in Gallatin, Tennessee. She was named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award™.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
As a child growing up in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, music was always a focus. My family sang in churches in Southeast Missouri as well as West Tennessee. My father (Ed Simmons) and mother (Mary) loved music and instilled this appreciation into the hearts of me and my brothers. In the second grade I began piano lessons, and as years past I was part of middle and high school choirs and sang in a wonderful gospel group, “His Own Trio,” in high school.
My love for music continued into my college years as I attended Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Union provided much needed music scholarships and a wonderful artistic program that inspired confidence and musical growth in me. I loved to sing and had never really considered teaching, but my voice teacher, Dr. Joseph Blass, and a beloved professor, Dr. Kenneth Hartley, suggested I enter the music education program. I believe they both saw the teacher in me and lovingly guided me toward that end. I graduated with my Bachelor of Music Education and promptly headed to Nashville to perform at Opryland USA.
It was not too many years later that I met my husband Dave, and we began to attend a local church together. As children were added to our family, I began teaching children’s choir as a volunteer at my church. At that time, I realized I was drawn to songwriting. I began writing children’s Christian music for various publishers.
The time came when my son, Matthew, and daughter, Leigh, were headed to a local elementary school. Sadly, there was no music provided in Sumner County at that time for elementary school children. So, I applied for a PTO elementary music position that paid $30 a day. I wanted my children to have the same music experience I had had as a child, so I was ready to pull out that teaching degree and create a music world for the children of Beech Elementary School.
I will never forget the first day I walked into a kindergarten class. I thought, “What should I do now?” But, as time progressed, I realized that I loved the children and completely enjoyed putting songs in their hearts. Suddenly, I looked in the mirror and saw an elementary music teacher. God had led me to a life-long commitment of sharing music with children and I knew that this was a journey that I would travel for the rest of my life.
What goals do you establish for the music program at your school(s)?
My main goal for Station Camp Elementary (SCE) is to foster a love for music in the hearts of my students. Music is a key to learning and expression. My desire is for every child to create, perform, respond, and connect to the world around them through music. I teach musical concepts utilizing varied methodologies like Orff and Kodály, as well as Dalcroze and movement. Some of the musical highlights of Station Camp Elementary are the programs that occur each year.
The kindergarten children perform “Kindergarten is Fun,” which is an extension of their curriculum. The 1st graders perform “A Walk through Nature,” which connects to 1st grade science standards. The 2nd grade students experience local Nashville culture with “A Night at the Grand Ole Opry.” The 3rd grade students celebrate the spirit of giving with “The Secret of Christmas,” and the 4th grade students experience the joy of Tennessee music and history through “Sing Tennessee!” Finally, the 5th grade children perform “Possibilities,” which encourages the students to believe in themselves and strive for excellence in education.
My desire is for every child to create, perform, respond, and connect to the world around them through music.
Each program is a cooperative learning effort incorporating the Related Arts Team and the classroom and special education teachers. Music is a “We” experience at SCE because WE work together to provide rich musical experiences that will last a lifetime. Every child has a special part in the productions, and the evening performances can often have more than 800 family members and friends in attendance.
SCE also has the Singing Bison Select Choir, which this year has 35 boys and 35 girls. The choir is called “select” because the children are encouraged to choose a musical experience they would like to try like: a solo, or instrument playing, or speaking part, or even dancing a ballet. The Singing Bisons perform two concerts each year featuring the fabulous 5th grade members. We also end the year with a Broadway musical. Yes, it is a challenge to include the 70+ Select Choir members in the musical, but the rich performance experience is invaluable. Last year’s performance was “Lion King,” and this year we plan to present “The Little Mermaid.”
Finally, I want to make it a daily goal to make sure the children know that I love them. Each one of them is special to me, and I want to make sure they know that I am there for them in every way. Music is my connection into their hearts.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
I am so grateful for NAfME and its continued support for music education in schools. This wonderful organization provides in-service opportunities as well as forums for sharing between music specialists. Often when you teach elementary music, you can feel alone in your world. NAfME provides that connection to other musicians and welcomed support to the music teacher.
I know that there is not a better profession in the world. YES, music teachers change the world!
NAfME is on the cutting edge of curriculum development, updating and implementation of standards, and inspiration of creativity within the music classroom. What would we do without you, NAfME? I am one music teacher who never wants to find out.
NAfME provides a strong foundation for all music educators on which to build. NAfME was instrumental in making music a core subject in the United States and helped establish value to music education. Because of its efforts, we as music educators have a newfound respect by our peers and even state and local governments. Thank YOU, NAfME!
What would you say to students interested in studying music education?
Recently, I was in a meeting where the leader asked, “Why do you teach?” I knew in my heart I wanted to raise my hand and say, “Because I want to change the world.”
Yes, this sounds lofty and naïve, but really, isn’t that the reason we teach? Don’t we want to change the world? Don’t we want to provide a music avenue for our children to grow? Don’t we want to share the joy of music? Don’t we want to place music into the lives of our students knowing that the notes we share will live in their hearts and minds? Absolutely!
Listening to music or viewing a music performance is one of the only experiences that will light up the entire brain. Music inspires creativity. Music is a wonderful form of expression. Music is the BEST learning tool for every child. Music is the key to connect to other cultures. Music touches the heart and mind. Yes, teaching is a tough profession filled with long hours and selfless expense financially and emotionally. Teaching music is not for the slight of heart. You must feel a real calling. But I know that there is not a better profession in the world. YES, music teachers change the world!
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
While attending University of Hawaii at Manoa to achieve that wonderful Masters of Arts in Music, I studied the effects of music on the brain. As I mentioned before, music is the only thing that stimulates the entire brain. I often say at Christian Children’s Choir conferences, “If we were to write every scripture on the wall that we knew, how long could we write?” We usually come to an agreement that we might be able to write scripture for 1-2 hours. I then ask, “How long would it take for us to sing every song we know?” The conference attendees are amazed because they realize that the singing of songs we all know would be endless. I believe it was no accident that God placed music in the long-term memory area of the brain. He saw the value and effect music can have on the human spirit. Thus, if you want to teach a child a concept, and you want him/her to not forget, you better sing that concept to that child.
Now, general education concepts like Quantum Learning embrace the power of music in learning and retention. Music is essential for every human being to be well-rounded and have the creative nature fostered. Music is a gift from God that leads us to the good and to a better life. Every day I change the world. I smile at my children; I sing songs to them; I teach them to play instruments; and I love them with all my heart and soul. Yes, my name is Pam Andrews, and I am an elementary music teacher!
For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM process – and to enter your name for consideration in the 2019 competition – please visit GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2018. Applications due by March 31, 2018.
Elizabeth Baker, Social Media Coordinator and Copywriter. February 28, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)