“A Music Teacher Is All I’ve Ever Wanted to Be.”
Carolyn Bennett is the first music educator Teacher-in-Residence
at the Library of Congress.
By Lisa Ferber
This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Teaching Music magazine.
Carolyn Bennett of North Stonington, Connecticut, fell in love with music from the start. Her grandfather, a professional pianist, gave her a piano when she was about four years old. “One of my earliest memories is sitting in my car seat, moving my fingers in a particular pattern and trying to predict what that would sound like on the piano. I couldn’t wait to unbuckle my car seat and try it out,” she says.
Bennett, a NAfME member, teaches grades 6–12 at Wheeler High School/Middle School in North Stonington. She says, “A music teacher is all I’ve ever wanted to be.” She got her bachelor’s degree in music education with a concentration in piano at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and her master’s degree in music education at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford in Connecticut. She says, “The moment that makes my heart swell with pride is when we’re in a concert and I can walk off the stage and go have a seat. I love when my students have learned something so thoroughly that they are ready to take full responsibility for their performance and they don’t need me to remind them, or encourage them, or be a safety blanket.”
“In the district where Bennett teaches, she’s the superwoman.”–Lee Ann Potter
Her work with the Library of Congress began in August for the 2018–2019 school year. She says, “My responsibility toward my fellow music educators is to draw them toward these resources and help us achieve our National Standards. The resources at the Library show how embedded music is in people’s lives. In addition to historically and culturally significant scores and audio recordings, we have images of people singing at marches, in their living rooms; we have letters from composers.”
Lee Ann Potter, director of the office of learning and innovation at the Library of Congress, says, “In the district where Carolyn teaches, she’s the superwoman. On any given day she could be teaching choir or guitar or music theory to kids of any age.” Potter hopes that Bennett’s involvement will encourage music teachers to incorporate the Library’s resources into the classroom. She notes that the Library holds rough drafts of songs we all know, as well as correspondence by and about familiar musicians. She cites a letter Leonard Bernstein’s mom wrote to him after he moved away. “It’s such a mom letter: ‘I hope you’re eating well and I hope your allergies aren’t bothering you,’ and she says this heartbreaking line, ‘After you left, the piano is just a bunch of sticks I have to dust.’ Even though she and I will never meet, it’s a shared feeling and connects us. I believe sharing such letters with students helps them understand powerful human connections, too.”
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