Virginia Flute Student Lives A Broader Minded Musical Life

Aimee and Sally Toner

Aimee Toner, a junior at Herndon High School in Northern Virginia, has played flute since 4th grade.  She talked her parents into getting her private lessons at the time “because I didn’t want to wait until 5th grade to start.”  Why the flute? “When I was little I heard Peter and the Wolf, I loved the bird so much I just knew I had to do that.”

A 2014 Virginia All-State state flautist, Aimee hopes to continue studying music in college, but, thinking practically,  says she will probably teach as well, explaining, “There aren’t that many full-time positions with symphony orchestras, so I hope to do both.” She has already ventured into studio teaching and works with five of her own flute students.

Aimee is also a member of a local ensemble, Flutopia, has twice attended the Northern California Flute Camp in Monterey, and plays with the American Youth Philharmonic Orchesta. She learned to love music from an early age. “My mom minored in music, and she was always playing piano—guitar, too. I wanted to learn to express myself musically, and I think that came from her, from being around music all the time. Expressing myself musically helps me express who I am as a person.”

And that is the message behind the National Association for Music Education (NAfME)’s  Broader Minded movement, that music not only affects academic achievement, but also shapes the way our students understand themselves and the world around them. Broader Minded promotes sequential, standards-based classroom music accessibility by emphasizing the need to educate the whole student.

Take a Closer Look at Broader Minded

NAfME’s Broader Minded campaign, with an interactive website, other media, background documents, and merchandise, provides music education advocates—teachers, students, parents, and supporters— with the necessary arguments describing the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of music education.  These resources can be useful in making the case for their music programs.


Broader Minded recently received a Silver ASAE “Power of A Award” from the Center for Association Leadership. The awards annually recognize a select number of organizations that distinguish themselves with “innovative, effective and broad-reaching programs and activities that positively impact America and the world.”

 The awards also  “showcase how associations leverage their unique resources to solve problems, advance industry/professional performance, kick-start innovation, and improve world conditions. Associations are involved in activities every day that make a substantial, positive impact on our lives.”


A Month Spent Nurturing Creativity

This past summer, Aimee spent a month at the Virginia Department of Education Summer Residential Governor’s School for the visual and performing arts at Radford University.  This program provides gifted rising high school juniors and seniors an intensive educational experiences in a variety of disciplines.

The Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts aims to be a “center for innovation that develops excellence, nurtures creativity, inspires artistic vision and builds communities with a passion for the arts.”

Aimee received music instruction, but also took classes in art, painting, drama and English as well. Aimee says, adding that “In addition to our regular music classes I got to be in other groups like an orchestra, a band, a flute choir and women’s quartet. Even though I didn’t get private instruction, I learned a lot, especially about musicianship. I learned much more about looking at music and approaching music, and how to communicate with others while playing music.”

She adds that during her month at the school she made friends from throughout the state, students who were focused on other disciplines, everything from science to math to dance. “We had a lot to talk about,” Aimee says. “I adored that.”

Jeffrey Phelps is Music Director of The Governor’s School for the Arts Orchestra.  A graduate of The Governor’s School for the Arts and the Cleveland Institute of Music, Phelps has conducted the Virginia Symphony, the Artemis Chamber Orchestra and the Williamsburg Youth Orchestra.   As a cellist, he performs as a member of the Alborada Piano Trio, as well as with sections of many orchestras including the Virginia Symphony, and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of the Dominican Republic.

Phelps says he advocates for music programs because “it is an essential element of every student’s public education.”  He also says he “strives to find new ways to help people of every career path explore the diversity, awareness, and independence that are inspired by the discipline, flexibility and compassion of a musical life.”


Making a Connection

“My time is very limited and I am very good at structuring what I need to do. I like to get my homework out of the way so I can practice as long as I want. My parents told me I can’t stay up too late to practice. Those are the only arguments we have, really,” she says with a laugh.

Aimee is taking a slate of AP classes, including Language, History, Music Theory, French as well as Honors Physics and Honors Pre-Calculus, and this school year, which will require some juggling.

She makes a connection between what she takes away from music and other subjects. “For me music is about community, learning how to work with others, teaching you how to work toward a common goal. With music what you really are striving for is perfection. You always want to hit the right note, but it’s not just and individual thing because you don’t want let down the other people you are working with,” she says.

“Music is also a creative outlet, which is really great. And I love that I can use my creativity in other ways. I love to write and I love to draw and to play music. All of those combine for me in different ways,” Aimee adds.


 The Poetry of Music

Aimee’s mom, Sally Toner, teaches 11th grade English, 11th Grade Honors English, and 11 Academic, English 11 Honors, and AP Literature at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia. A pianist as well, she knows the important role music plays in the lives of people of all ages.

“Music has always been a part of my life, but then it is a part of everyone’s life. It’s who we are,” Sally says.  

Sally received an award for her short story writing in the 16th annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest sponsored by Montgomery College and The Potomac Review. Aimee’s father Mark is a writer as well.

She said she has seen firsthand how much influences other subjects. “When I have new students I can tell which ones are musicians. They have a knowledge of rhythm, and a knowledge of language as well. The rhythm of poetry, iambic pentameter, for example, they get that right away.”

Sally adds, “I am real believer in the fine arts because they are such an enriching part of the world. You’re not just a mathematician, you’re not just a scientist, you’re not just an athlete, you’re not just a poet, and you’re not just a musician. You are a whole person, and all of those things make you who you are.”


Think Beyo
nd the Bubbles

The Upper Arlington (Ohio) Public Schools are among those that support NAfME’s Broader Minded movement. Superintendent Paul Imhoff agrees with the Broader Minded message, writing on the school district blog  “Students aren’t standardized. Let’s think beyond the bubbles.”


Roz Fehr, NAfME Communications Content Developer, September 11, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (