Published on July 10th, 2020 | by TLV News1
A Seamless Life: Teaching, Practicing, and Living Choral Music Education
Dr. Elizabeth Hearn arrived in Oxford a year ago, hit the ground running, and hasn’t slowed down since. She teaches graduate and undergraduate choral music education at the University of Mississippi, and conducts the Women’s Glee ensemble. But as a veteran music educator (17 years and counting), she’s thrived on building and fostering professional relationships with colleagues and students — and those relationships helped her connect quickly with choral colleagues near her new home.
“Shortly after moving to Mississippi, I accepted a position as the conductor of CoroArroyo, one of six choirs in the CoroRio choral organization that serves K-12 students in the Memphis and DeSoto County areas,” says Hearn. CoroArroyo is a treble choir made up of students in grades 5-10.
“These students are in the crucial developmental stages of their musical journeys and adolescence,” notes Hearn. “I am required to use a different skill set from what I use with my University students to guide these young students’ vocal development, to build their music literacy skills, and to support them socially and emotionally.”
Her work with CoroArroyo may seem like a separate project from her life at UM, but Hearn says it flows seamlessly into it, nourishing her work with UM music education students.
Hearn explains: “It means so much to me to be able to go back to my University students, and especially to my choral music education classes, and share with them about my experiences teaching this particular age of students. It is important for my music education students to be able to see me ‘walk the walk,’ and my work with CoroArroyo gives me an opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce the skills and pedagogy that I’m teaching in my college courses.”
“I also get to collaborate with my friend and colleague Don Trott in a different context, which has facilitated many meaningful discussions and experiences,” she adds.
“Dr. Hearn is versatile in her ability to work with different age groups and has made an immediate connection with these young singers,” says Dr. Trott.
“At Ole Miss, Dr. Hearn teaches courses in choral methods, rehearsal procedures, and conducting,” he adds. “Having the opportunity to work directly and regularly with younger students allows her to stay aware of how varying teaching strategies work, and allows her to share practical experiences with her future teachers at Ole Miss.”
Her involvement with CoroRio has also provided Hearn the opportunity to expand her choral network even further in support of the department. “Through my early involvement with CoroRio, I was able to meet and work with outstanding choral music educators and students weeks before classes began at Ole Miss,” she said.
“These early connections with Mississippi choral colleagues opened doors for me to be able to get out and visit middle school and high school choral classes this past fall. Visiting schools and working with students is such a rewarding component of my job. I look forward to expanding my reach and visiting schools throughout Mississippi in the coming years.”
Choral singing has become a family affair for Hearn. Her children, Catherine, age 10, and Andrew, age 6, are “quite musical,” says Hearn. “I tell people that our life is a musical. I sing to wake them up, put them to bed, and we speak-sing throughout the day . . . yes, we are THOSE people.”
Daughter Catherine sings in Corriente, one of CoroRio’s elementary choirs. Recently, Corriente sang with CoroArroyo in combined performance.
“I conducted the opening combined number for the CoroRio holiday concert,” says Hearn, “and it was the first time that Catherine had performed under my direction. It was a very special moment for both of us and our family members who were present.”
“Inspiring and instilling a life-long love of music in those I teach is my life’s work,” Hearn continues, “but to experience my own children embracing and falling in love with music is truly magical.”
All of which is not only meaningful for Dr. Hearn and her family, it’s also wonderful for young choral students in our area, and it’s fantastic for the UM Department of Music.