Music Is for All of Us

Music Is for All of Us:
Alice Hammel is Devoted to Teaching
Students who Learn Differently 

By Lori Schwartz Reichl

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Teaching Music Magazine

Alice Hammel is a music educator, author, and clinician who is widely known for her enthusiasm and knowledge of teaching diverse students and children with disabilities. Having spent many years teaching both instrumental and choral music in public and private schools, she currently teaches music education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia; aural skills at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond; and online courses through the University of Arkansas.

Alice Hammel
“How can we do a better job as music teachers to teach these students?” — Alice Hammel. Photo Credit: MaryAnn Anderson

Hammel is the product of two pediatricians who she insists, “did not believe in childcare.” From infancy, Hammel was immersed in her parents’ medical world and traveled everywhere with them. She often slept in a crib at their private practice and was an attendee at numerous medical conferences before entering grade school. Hammel’s curiosity was heightened when she observed the diverse children her parents treated and asked to learn about their differences. Her parents also encouraged her love of music. In seventh grade, while playing the flute, Hammel decided that she wanted to be a middle school band director. She spent a summer shadowing a music therapist, but eventually realized her true interest was, “to teach musical skills to students who learned differently.”

“Alice has set an educational goal ‘to make sure every child, even those who are unintentionally forgotten, have access to music education’.”

Alice Hammel loves things, people, and experiences that are different. This inquisitiveness has sparked her interest in topics such as diversity, ADHD, autism, and children who are nonverbal or living in poverty. She understands the tremendous value music provides for all children, and has set an educational goal, “to make sure every child, even those who are unintentionally forgotten, have access to music education.” In addition, she believes all students would successfully learn each day if they felt supported and challenged by each of their teachers. She is frequently invited to speak at various universities, professional development sessions, and conferences regarding diverse students, students with disabilities, and students who learn differently. Her message to her audience is simple: “How can we do a better job as music teachers to teach these students?”

Alice Hammel
Alice Hammel, Instructor, Music Education James Madison University Harrisonburg, Virginia; courtesy of Alice Hammel

In looking ahead to 2018, Alice Hammel is most excited about several professional projects. She, along with two other colleagues, is starting a new Kodály Program at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She is also teaching a new course in Boston in July, completing a book chapter on “how students with disabilities can interface with tablets in a music class,” and researching the topic of students who live in poverty in rural areas and discovering how best to teach them. As a proud parent, she is personally looking forward to watching one of her daughters, also a music educator, conduct her first program in Nashville, Tennessee; and her other daughter perform with the New York Philharmonic, Knoxville, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras as a flutist.

Alice Hammel will be leading the Amplify: Involvement Opus learning track at the 2018 NAfME National Conference, November 11-14, in Dallas, Texas.


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