August 22, 2018
18-171

John Stephen
Communications Specialist

First Cohort of Music Education Students Graduate from VSU with 100 Percent Job Placement Rate

Pictured, from left to right, are Corey Hopson, Rickie Limoges, William Smith, Phillip Wood, and Kathleen Dennison, the first cohort of graduates from VSU’s MAT in music education degree program.

VALDOSTA — Five graduate students recently became the first to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in music education from Valdosta State University, and they celebrated their July graduation with a 100 percent job placement rate.

“This is an excellent first group to represent VSU as new teachers,” said Dr. Douglas Farwell, head of VSU's Department of Music. “We are excited to see how they mold and inspire the next generation of young students.”

The MAT in music education degree program is a one-year, four-semester program that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. It provides students pedagogy and necessary skills to perform as teachers in the P-12 environment; prepares students to document and assess student learning outcomes and to be conversant with innovative practices within the field; and produces graduates with exceptional content knowledge and pedagogical expertise who will engage, inspire, and educate P-12 students. 

In addition to completing all requirements of the MAT in music education program, all the graduates passed the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators

(GACE) and the national edTPA (Educative Teacher Performance Assessment) exam and are entering the workforce with T-5 teaching certifications issued by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

“I am very proud of myself and the rest of the graduates for all of our hard work, determination, and dedication,” said Phillip Wood, a native of Belton, South Carolina, who is a vocalist and saxophonist. He is the new director of choral activities at Robert Anderson Middle School in Anderson, South Carolina, and will teach all of the choirs and direct the school’s spring musical. He will also serve as the woodwind instructor for the Westside High School Marching Band. 

“I feel completely prepared going into my first year of teaching,” said Wood, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in music in 2016 from Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina. “VSU’s MAT in music education program is well-rounded and thorough. I went through this program preparing myself to teach band, but I am actually going to be teaching chorus. Thanks to the structure of this program and the help from all of the professors involved, I have no worries going into my first teaching position.”

Kathleen Dennison, a native of Lilburn, Georgia, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education in 2017 from VSU, said one highlight of the MAT in music education program was the experiential learning opportunities.

“I am very happy that we were able to go out in the schools to observe and teach for two semesters instead of just one,” said Dennison, a flutist and pianist who learned to play and teach the basics of each band instrument in the graduate program. “Last fall we got some experience teaching middle and elementary school students through our practicum class. This gave me a better idea of how to teach those age groups, which prepared me for my job teaching middle and elementary schoolers.” 

Dennison is the new middle school band director and music teacher at Pelham City Middle School and Elementary School in Pelham, Georgia. She will teach middle school band and fourth and fifth grade general music. She will also assist with the high school marching band. 

“Finding out that I love teaching elementary school music was a huge deal for me,” she said. “I have always wanted to teach high school band, and I still want to, but I also want to teach elementary music for a while.” 

Corey Hopson, a native of Bishop, Georgia, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in music from VSU in 2017 before entering the MAT in music education program, is the new band director at Coffee County Middle School in Douglas, Georgia. Hopson, who plays all brass instruments as well as the saxophone and bassoon, will also assist the high school during marching band season.

“I feel like I helped pioneer a program that will change the way music education is done in the state of Georgia,” he said. “There are definitely some classes that I know current teachers wish they had had in their programs. The instrument repair class has already been of great use to me in my time as a student teacher, and I know those skills will be put to good use in my new position.”

Farwell added, “The graduates have unique experiences that no other music program in the region and perhaps even the country offer with two literature courses that traditional programs don’t have time to offer. They also had an advanced conducting course and methods courses with specialists teaching each instrument and voice.” 

Other graduates of the MAT in music education program are Rickie Limoges, the new assistant director of bands for Lanier County Schools, and William Smith, the new director of bands for Lee County Middle School West.

Contact Dr. Doug Farwell at (229) 333-5804 or dfarwell@valdosta.edu to learn more.

On the Web:
https://www.valdosta.edu/programs/mat-music-education
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