A Florida State University professor has been recognized by the National Association for Music Education, one of the world’s largest arts education organizations, for her service to music education.
Judy Bowers received the Lowell Mason Fellowship, a distinction created by NAfME to honor individuals for their contributions to music education, at the association’s annual National Assembly.
The recognition of her service by NAfME is especially gratifying for Bowers because it is based on her work in developmental teaching, highlighted by a partnership between Florida State and Raa Middle School in Tallahassee.
“One of my research areas is developmental teaching so my students can learn how to teach anybody — not just the very talented,” Bowers said. “I’ve been working on that for my entire 25 years at FSU, and it is now a very big deal within the profession. Everyone has figured out we can’t just teach the very talented. We have to teach everybody if choral singing is to remain available. The fact that the partnership reflects developmental teaching —and that it mattered — was very satisfying to me.”
A Florida State faculty member since 1990, Bowers teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in choral music and music education in the College of Music, and conducts the Women’s Glee Club, a performing group that also provides Adopt-A-Choir and Study-Buddy partnerships with local public school choirs.
In 1998, educators from Raa Middle School invited Bowers to develop a partnership for a before-school and after-school arts enrichment program that was open to all students. With help from a $25,000 grant from Best Buy, funds from the United Way, and FSU faculty member Rodney Jordan, the partnership grew to include a before-school jazz band and steel drum ensembles.
Currently, on two mornings a week, Bowers brings her choral music education students to Raa to work with the middle school students in a before-school choir, Raa Singers.
The intention of the partnership was to increase arts participation via before/after school programs and then move them into the curriculum to provide access for any Raa student. Now, jazz, steel pans and strings all meet as a part of the curriculum.
The Raa Singers choir continues to meet before school to provide a laboratory for Florida State juniors and seniors to develop skill, confidence and pedagogical techniques as promising teachers. The Raa music faculty has expanded from one full-time band and one full-time choir teacher to a staff of five full-time teachers, plus a part-time educator. Raa also has active theatre, dance and visual arts programs.
Throughout the 15 years of the FSU-Raa Partnership, Florida State music education students have been an integral part of the collaboration. In addition to assisting Raa’s music program, freshman choral music students work as academic tutors in the afternoons, where they learn how to relate to middle school students.
“When (my students) start their internships in schools across Florida, they have a different perspective than many novice teachers,” Bowers said. “The partnership is the best thing that I could ever wish for the students who plan to become teachers in choral music. There’s nothing more powerful in their education than their partnership with Raa Middle School.”
In 2008, Raa officially declared itself an arts-focused school and a “School of Choice” in Leon County meaning students in other parts of the district could apply for enrollment.
William Fredrickson, professor of music education and associate dean in the College of Music, joined Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Music Clifford Madsen in nominating Bowers for the fellowship. In his recommendation letter, Fredrickson wrote, “None of this would have happened without the dedicated teaching and music education advocacy of Judy Bowers.”