UNM Lab School

Video created by Crystal Hardman Boyack

In 1998, the Music Department at the University of New Mexico asked me to create a new degree – Bachelor of Music in String Pedagogy. At that time, I had no idea of the amount of work necessary to create and defend a new degree at a major state university. My naivety became obvious when I boldly announced that a teaching lab school was necessary for students to apply and clarify the principles and skills they would learn in lectures – and so I began concurrent work on two massive projects, the new degree and the lab school.

Two very important colleagues contributed and encouraged the development of the pedagogy curriculum: Louise Scott, Professor of Music [violin/string pedagogy] at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and John Kendall, Professor of Music [violin/string pedagogy] at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Both generously shared ideas, expertise and encouragement as the projects developed.

The curriculum had to comply with National Association of Schools of Music guidelines, as well as degree requirements of the State of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico and the Music Department. In addition, it was requested that it be as close as possible to the Bachelor of Music Education degree. It took several months to create a four-year curriculum adhering to each of the required guidelines. In 2000, a suitable plan had been devised, and the defenses of the new curriculum began. In February, 2001, the last defense - in front of the UNM Faculty Senate – was scheduled. Although this defense was the most feared, it went smoothly and I left feeling gratified and relieved. The approved curriculum was comprehensive in scope. Pedagogical approaches of Simon Fischer, Ivan Galamian, John Kendall, Paul Rolland and Shinichi Suzuki, are all included, and students who fulfilled additional requirements could also earn Long Term Training from the Suzuki Association of the Americas. In addition, students were also introduced to interdisciplinary topics related to teaching via a weekly seminar class.

What was unforeseen, however, was the influx of graduate students desiring to study. Within a few semesters, there were more graduate students than undergraduate students enrolled. This created havoc for everyone. The problems were twofold: 1. Our facilities were fully scheduled, which left no time/rooms available to add classes and 2. UNM required additional academic rigor for graduate students. As before, an experienced colleague, Colleen Sheinberg, Coordinator of Graduate Studies, became a knowledgeable resource. With her help, we were able to create the new degree, Master of Music in String Pedagogy, which became available in the Fall, 1013. Six graduate students were enrolled, and news is spreading quickly about the availability of the new course of study for graduate students.

Our graduates are performing and teaching in schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Brazil. A list of our graduates and their current pursuits is kept on the String Pedagogy website.

The UNM Lab School began with a single five year old. Maggie Jensen was recruited to come once a week and be taught in front of the first two undergraduate majors in String Pedagogy, Laurie Lopez and Terra King [Whitehead]. Thus, the UNM Lab School was born.

The growth of the UNM Lab School has mirrored the growth of the pedagogy program. As of this writing, there are over 160 children from throughout the community enrolled. Each lab student receives a private and a homogeneous group lesson in violin, cello and viola. As they progress, they also take Music Mind Games, reading classes, fiddling, a new "music inventions" class which features improvisation, creativity and experimentation, and Mad About Music, for students interested in belonging to a tour group. In the fall, 2012, we were able to add a class for three and four year old children, based on Dorothy Jones' Suzuki Early Childhood Education. will be added. Classes in Mariachi will be added as teaching space becomes available. All classes in the lab school are taught by UNM pedagogy students, who work under the direction of professional teachers. This arrangement means the pedagogy students receive immediate feedback and long term guidance after each class.

Another component of the lab school is a new apprenticeship opportunity with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program, Inc. This is a 2-semester apprenticeship in which two or more UNM string pedagogy students spend two hours each week with one of the AYS orchestras. It is a true apprenticeship in that the university students conduct sectional rehearsals, give private mini lessons, arrange chairs, help tune, coach during rehearsals, and have time on the podium conducting the group under the direction of AYS conducting staff. This collaboration is proving to be a win-win collaboration for both the university students and for the Albuquerque Youth Symphony. We have also been invited to explore a similar relationship between the UNM Lab School and a middle school in the Albuquerque school district.

The benefits of practical, hands-on guided teaching in the UNM Lab School have provided other opportunities for our pedagogy students; they are regularly hired to clinic school orchestras and to judge local solo & ensemble events. This attests to the quality of our students, as well as to the regard in which they are held among professional teachers in our area.

Although this is not a complete history, it does provide the reader with a brief overview of how these two programs grew and developed. Surely, if this history is rewritten in another year or so, it will need some revision, as it is sure to have changed and matured.

For more information, visit the Lab School website or email thelabschool@unm.edu

Photographs of Susan Kempter's Bisiach courtesy of Robertson & Sons Violin Shop