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Emily Veramessa

Professor Rathgeber
MUED 206
12/12/16
Semester Reflection
This class has easily been one of the most enjoyable and unique courses I have taken in
my entire life. Being a vocalist from a family of non-musicians, my instrumental experience was
an intro to classical guitar class in high school and three piano classes here at JMU. Not only had
I never studied any other instruments, I had never played any, either. I thought the saxophone
was in the brass family. Im not kidding. (In my defense, it is made of brass.) (I think.)
The first day I began playing the saxophone, I felt impatient and slightly discouraged. I
looked at all the little buttons and trinkets and laughed at the thought that I would ever
become competent on such an intimidating machine. We spent most of the class trying to
make a pleasant sound with the mouth piece, and for every pleasant sound, I made about four
squacks an octave up, and six pitch-less whispers. Our first few classes playing brass
instruments, I resented my light head and tired mouth, frustrated that I couldnt even get a
decent sound to show for it. This class definitely gave me an idea of how deeply-embedded the
perfectionistic tension is drilled into musicians: even after an entire semester of
encouragement and reassurance from our own professor, we all still struggled to relax and
enjoy the learning process. Activities like our squirrel video percussion cover, our woodwind
duets, and rehearsing for our final jam definitely made us problem-solve, collaborate, and
invent through different modalities, and it often wasnt pleasant. I realize in retrospect that

these projects werent pleasant to me because they were different and challenging and openended. I dare to hypothesize that I wouldnt have gotten stressed so easily if I had exposure to
those kinds of musical experiences throughout my adolescence.
The only time I made any progress in my instrumental musicianship was when I viewed
myself as one of my own students. I know that as a teacher, my ultimate goal is to increase my
students enthusiasm for music, and foster their independent, confident musicianship. The
point of learning new instruments is not to master the technique quickly or to accurately read
notation. Instruments are tools to make music, and when I finally started to let myself relax, I
actually enjoyed doing so. I enthusiastically played Khumbaya for a woodwind assignment,
continuing through the flat, shaky notes and the unexpected octave jump. I focused on the song
I was playing and the message it brings. And somewhere in the process, I actually started
sounding consistent and accurate. I felt like a child at times, grinning from ear to ear when Jesse
complimented my ambattur and struggling to restrain myself from blasting a scale as loud as I
could while we reflected in class.
While I am surprised and impressed by the instrumental abilities I have attained through
this course, I am more proud and grateful for the insight and confidence this course has given
me as an educator. I was reminded that music is something that is felt, heard and experienced,
not just read on a page. Music is something that is created, imitated, re-invented, and
expressed, not just something memorized and polished. Music can be informal and
individualized and spontaneousthrough this class, I learned that it is often more meaningful
and long-lasting that way.

This course challenged me and opened my eyes to new ways of experiencing and
teaching music that I had never considered feasible in a classroom setting. For the first time in
my undergraduate career, I viewed music-teaching primarily through a creative lens. Where I
lack formal western musical experience, I never considered that musical concepts can be
taught through things like pop culture, aural interpretation, kinesthetic movement, or
improvisation. This class provided me with experiences, pedagogical concepts, and skills that I
can directly apply to my future career, and I am incredibly grateful for that. This class helped to
rekindle my love for music learning, and it has empowered me to confidently share it with
students.