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Music alumna Amy Jensen selected as RSO outstanding music educator

Music alumna Amy Jensen selected as RSO outstanding music educator

Amy Jensen, who earned her Master of Music from NIU in 2007, has been named the 2020 outstanding music educator by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra.

Jensen has taught music at Hononegah High School in Rockton, Ill. for 30 years, serving as choir director, music theory teacher, musical theater director and piano teacher.

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra established the outstanding music educator award in 2016 to recognize an outstanding music educator in the community. The award is sponsored by Savant Capital Management and includes a plaque, $250 to put towards classroom supplies, $250 for professional development and two subscriptions to the Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s Classics Series concerts.

Grad profiles – Dajhumbay Russell

Grad profiles – Dajhumbay Russell

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Dajhumbay Russell

Dajhumbay RussellDegree Earned: Bachelors of Arts in Music Education and Music Performance
Hometown: West Bloomfield Michigan
High School: Homeschooled through Accelerated Christian Education program (A.C.E)

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?

  • NIU Steelband for all six years
  • Rides to and from performances with my band mates and the performances themselves
  • Got to perform with steel pan greats like Andy Narell, Victor Provost, Leon Foster, and our very own professor Liam Teague
  • NIU Huskie Marching Band my first year
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Jazz Combo
  • Going to the football games (when I had time)
  • Lastly, the many people that I met that made the experience so much fun and inspiring. My peers and the daily journeys we embarked upon. Ha ha.

What’s next for you?
Now that I’ve completed my degree I am looking to start teaching music in the public school system. I’m open to teach in Illinois (of course) Michigan, and/or Florida. I will also continue what I’ve always loved to do which is perform at many different venues over the summer. Gigging will always be a part of my professional career. Looking further down the path I’d like to start a private lesson studio where I will teach students how to play the steel pan, drum set, and piano.

What’s one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
One piece of advice I’ve learned is that you should always be looking for ways to improve yourself. Never stop growing. However, make sure to pat yourself on the back for the accomplishments you have made and be confident in yourself. There will always be people who will criticize what you are trying to do. Stay true to yourself.

How was your experience at Northern different than what you expected when you started?
Something that was different from what I expected in my first year were the people I spent my free time with. I spent a good deal of time with friends from a slightly different demographic from my own. Between the steel pan studio (consists of all pan majors) and people from drum line, I was welcomed into more of a family type of environment than one might expect their first year.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be and what would you say?
It would be Professor Liam Teague, Lynn Retherford, and Dr. [David] Maki.

To Liam:
Thank you for all that you poured into my life. Thank you for teaching me to reach for the stars and to always be aware of my progress. Thank you for always keeping it real with me and being more than just my professor. You’ve been a mentor and a true inspiration! I’ve learned so much just from your work ethic and dedication to your craft alone. I feel blessed to have been your student.

To Lynn:
Thank you for all of your assistance and support. As the music students always say you’re the one that we come to when we’re in need of serious help! You’re like a superhero. I can’t count how many times I came to you with issues regarding registration, licensure and just day to day questions and every time you were able to help me in some way or another! So, I thank you so much for always being a helping hand.

What’s something you’d like to come back to do one more time?|
That’s easy! Come back and play with the NIU Steelband just one more time!

What are some of the things you’re most proud of from your time at Northern?

  • Greatly improving  my musicianship both on paper and practice
  • Getting to trade solos with Victor Provost (truly an Honor)
  • Performing at Virginia International Pan Fest
  • Performing with the Chicago Sinfonietta at the Chicago Symphony Center
  • Producing a great senior recital

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020, what would it be?
Always be true to yourself, but be open minded and hear people out. Choose your professors/classes wisely and your friends even more wisely. Enjoy every moment of this experience! Meet new people. Go to as many events as you can without sacrificing your homework. Take breaks. Get yourself a great study buddy. Always have a plan! Face every obstacle with courage. Be confident in what you do know but also realize you don’t know everything. Most Importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! That is one of the most mature things you can do.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Andrew Brimm

Grad Profiles – Andrew Brimm

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Andrew BrimmAndrew Brimm

Degree earned: Bachelors in Music Education with a focus on instrumental studies
Hometown: Braidwood, Ill.
High School: Reed-Custer High School
Transfer from: Joliet Junior College after earning his associate degree in general education with studies in music technology

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
The music building is right next to the lagoon and I would take the time in between classes to walk around the lagoon or walk around the older part of campus where Altgeld Hall and the law building [Swen Parson Hall] are. Those were some of my best memories, especially during the summer, spring time, or early in the fall semester when it was just really nice out. It was like a break from music but it was refreshing for sure.

What’s next for you?
I am teaching some private lessons for clarinet, and saxophone here in my home town and in the school district. I’m also substitute teaching before all the pandemic stuff happened. I’m still applying for full-time band director positions, mainly high schools and middle schools in the state.

What’s one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
A phrase that I take with me is “putting energy into the things that I can control.” There’s a lot of things that happen just in life and in the world, whether it is in our jobs or academics–things that we can worry about and ponder and be stressed about that don’t necessarily help us and take away from what we’re really trying to do. I know that’s kind of been the case, especially now with all the pandemic stuff. You should definitely put the energy into job applications. As I work in teaching my students, I’ll be asking myself what could I do better for them?

How was your experience at Northern different than what you expected when you started?
I thought I was going to come in and it was very much going to be like my community college experience. That there was going to be very small group of people that I knew and hung out with. That was very much not the case. When I got to Northern I found a group of friends that were all musicians and educators that I was with, but mostly the whole School of Music that I was a part of. There’s so much diversity. For example, we had a lot of people from China. We had people from South Korea, we had people from Trinidad and different states across the US. Even the people that were brought into master classes were from around the world. That always surprised me. I didn’t think it was going to be like that. I thought it was going to be much more centralized. NIU definitely put me out of my comfort zone as far as exploring things. So much so that I went overseas last summer to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria. I’ll always cherish that experience. NIU pushed the boundaries of diversity and expanded my comfort zone.

What was the experience in Salzburg like?
I did a two week stay to kind of fill a music history requirement. It was a two week stint out there doing a program called the Mozart Project. Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart. I researched the initial developments of the clarinet and mechanical advances as well as looking at Mozart’s clarinet concerto, which he wrote later in his life. He specifically wrote it for an individual virtuoso clarinet player called Anton Stadler who he worked very closely with.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be and what would you say?
I would definitely thank my private lessons instructor Dr. [Greg] Barrett. He is such an interesting individual, and he’s always so cheery and excited to talk about the clarinet and to hear what students are doing. He really expanded my knowledge of the clarinet and gave me plenty of things to work on. Things that I can bring to my younger students in the classroom. Those are all things that I really latch on to, especially now that I’ve been teaching a lot of my students digitally.

What’s something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would have to say that I’d like to walk around the lagoon one more time on a nice, clear, sunny day.

What are some of the things you’re most proud of from your time at Northern?
I think one of the coolest moments I had at Northern was last spring, I was part of the Defiant Requiem.  At the end, after the last couple of chords in the requiem, I was in a clarinet solo starting out, and then the choir joins in and everybody starts to leave the stage one at a time. It was a great experience for all of us on the stage and the people in the audience.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020, what would it be?
The idea of putting energy into things you can control should reverberate with them. Don’t take anything for granted. I think I definitely did that at Northern. I took a lot of things for granted, especially when I started to student teach. I grew so close to so many people, and I got so busy teaching every day at high schools and middle schools, that I kind of lost touch with some my friends and faculty to some extent. There wasn’t like the small talk that we would have in between classes or something like that. I definitely missed that. Take those opportunities to go hang out with friends, too. You definitely don’t get those things back once they’re gone.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Music Building sidewalk to be site of memorial walk, June 11

Music Building sidewalk to be site of memorial walk, June 11

“Say Their Names” a memorial walk to honor the memory of unarmed victims of police violence will be held, Saturday, June 13 on the sidewalk on the east side of the NIU Music Building at 550 Lucinda Avenue. The walk has been organized by a number of students from the NIU School of Music.

Say Their Names poster

You are encouraged to bring flowers, photos, and prayers to leave behind.