‘Kindness First’: Music Education Graduate Wants to Teach with Compassion and Empathy

May 2, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Isabel Verdugo, who graduated in May from the School of Music, Dance and Theater with a Bachelor of Music in Music Learning and Teaching, said she will foster a community of compassion and empathy in her future venues. classroom.

Isabelle Verdugo
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Verdugo’s passion for music and the cello began with a chamber ensemble class in high school which led her to pursue a career as a music teacher in hopes of providing students with the same opportunities as she had had. When she came to ASU as a freshman, she began her music education career with private lessons and Saturday morning classes for the ASU String Project.

“I’m proud to be part of the ASU String Project, a program that provides interested students with a low-cost education,” Verdugo said. “I enjoyed gaining teaching experience before being in a classroom.”

While teaching for the ASU String Project, she worked closely with Margaret Schmidt, Professor of Music Learning and Teaching in the School of Music, Dance and Theater and Director of the ASU String Project.

“I worked for this program every year at ASU and that meant working closely with the one and only Dr. Schmidt,” she said.

Verdugo said one of the most important lessons she learned at ASU was from Schmidt.

“She taught me to teach and nurture with kindness first,” she said. “Coming into the scary school of music halls, she was the source of solace for, I think, many students learning and teaching music. She was one of the few who consistently believed in us and never wanted to see us grow and succeed. I saw how his passion for music education and his caring spirit sent many students on the road to success.

“My only hope is to be able to embody his compassionate heart in my own future class.”

Verdugo’s experience with the String Project during the COVID-19 pandemic has also shaped her ideas about the type of teacher she wants to be.

“I was in the unique position of being a teacher of young students and being a student myself at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Often I was in the same boat as the students, we were upset about missing school activities and changing the lives around us. Sharing and understanding each other turned out to be a lesson in empathy. I realized the importance of empathy in a classroom. He created a space where students felt comfortable and eager to learn. This allowed for lasting impressions and genuine interest in each other’s lives.

Through her university teaching experiences, Verdugo said she also gained a better understanding of music’s ability to connect across cultures and experiences and was committed to the inclusion as a musician-teacher.

Verdugo performed with La Raza Chamber Musicians, a student-led project designed to share chamber music by Latino composers with audiences who rarely have access to live performances and seldom see Latino musicians. She also worked with La Raza to adapt their performances for online audiences during the pandemic and participated in a virtual orchestra for a student-led musical production.

“Isabel has a desire to learn and, in turn, to help others learn,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said she knows Verdugo is always looking for new ideas to improve her teaching and is very open to suggestions.

“Isabel demonstrates a commitment to excellence as an educator, always seeking and incorporating feedback from the teacher mentors she has worked with in the String Project, in her internships, and in teaching students,” Schmidt said. “She always maintains a positive attitude, both for her own ability to master something and for her students – she truly believes they can learn anything and patiently encourages them to keep trying. I know that Isabel will be an exceptional musical pedagogue.

Jill Sullivan, professor of music learning and teaching at the School of Music, Dance and Drama, also praised Verdugo.

“Isabel is an outstanding student, also at Barrett Honor’s College, who conducted an outstanding project with me in my Instrumental Methods class,” Sullivan said. “She has researched and written case studies on classroom management, some of which we have used to foster discussion in my class.”

While at ASU, Verdugo received the Obama Fellowship, a University Fellowship, and the New American University Scholar – Dean’s Award.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

To respond: During my student teacher residency, I shared stories with my teacher mentors that made me think, “I don’t know why I didn’t realize this sooner. It was a wonderful time to reflect and find small defining moments that I never considered part of the reason I went into education. I cannot precisely describe a singular moment; it has always been a series of events that have accumulated in the pursuit of musical education. I just knew that I loved my musical experience in school and that I loved music. I just wanted to let this passion grow.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Attending ASU meant I could be in a music program full of unique musical experiences. It also meant that I could work with the ASU String project. This program offered low-cost private and group music instruction to interested students. I remember discovering this program and wishing I had the opportunity to take private lessons while I was in school. Which made me want to be part of it for as long as possible.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?

A: Be kind to yourself. Show kindness and compassion as you would someone else. This means taking care of yourself first, whether it’s eating a full meal or taking a nap. It may look different to everyone, but it’s important for your health nonetheless.

Q: Where was your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends or just think about life?

A: I survived thanks to the Music Building. These round walls comforted me and were my constant throughout my time at ASU. However, nothing beats the courtyard of the Music Building. He provided a space for musical friendships to flourish and grow.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I accepted a job with Mesa Public Schools to teach full-time orchestra and general music at Whittier Elementary.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would try to attack the education system. There is so much room for improvement and growth, I know future generations would be grateful.

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