Partners in Music wins 2015 Community Engagement and Scholarship Award

April 09, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Partners in Music, a program that pairs Penn State students in the School of Music with elementary-age students, has received the 2015 Penn State Award for Community Engagement and Scholarship, an award that recognizes a project that best exemplifies Penn State as an “engaged institution,” which the Kellogg Commission defines as an institution that has redesigned teaching, research, and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with its communities.

Established in 2007 by Penn State professors Linda Thornton and Robert Gardner in conjunction with Park Forest Elementary School Band Teacher Roy Schaeffer, the program has benefitted more than 1,240 students. In 2014, 185 fifth-grade students, 13 senior music education students, two graduate music education students and all of State College Area School District elementary instrumental music teachers participated in the program.

“One of the outstanding contributions of Thornton and Gardner is their vision to offer local band and orchestra students an enhanced, festival-like performance experience that also provides music education students genuine teaching experience with children,” said a nominator.

One benefit noted by both educators and parents of the students is that the program has inspired students to practice their instruments more, thus greatly increasing their skills. Also, Penn State students said the program, which increases real-life education experiences by 100 percent, increased their confidence ahead of student teaching.

The program consists of six sessions followed by a well-attended public concert.

“As a future music teacher, this was incredibly beneficial. We often teach other college students in an ensemble setting as a way to practice, which isn’t nearly as effective as teaching real fifth-graders,” said a University student. “During these last five weeks, I’ve learned what it’s like to teach kids who may not know everything about their instrument and sometimes get tired of rehearsing. I also learned that there is an incredible amount of potential in these students who are eager to play music together.”

A parent noted her daughter became much more enthusiastic about participating and her practice time doubled. “It was great to expose her to other great music teachers and to be a part of something bigger than just her school,” she said. “It showed her what a big band in a top-notch facility was like.”

Last Updated April 09, 2015