Music Teacher Feature: Julie Schramke

by Luke Taylor, Minnesota Public Radio
February 11, 2014
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St. Paul, Minn. — Classical MPR's new Teacher Feature highlights the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.

Julie Schramke
Music Teacher
Achieve Language Academy
St. Paul, Minn.

Who or what inspired you to become a music teacher?

I have always loved music and wanted to share that love with others. I did my undergraduate work straight out of high school, but did not complete my licensure for many years after. My children, Sophia and Julian Teeple, encouraged me to go back to school and complete my teaching licensure when they were in elementary school.

When I went back, I was amazed at how much music education had changed since I was a child, when it involved sitting and reading songs out of textbooks. Music teaching was about movement and improvisation and creating. I was totally hooked.

Where did you go to college?

I did my undergrad at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

I went to Concordia University, St. Paul, for my teaching licensure, and University of St. Thomas for my master's degree.

What would you say is your primary instrument?

Voice is my primary instrument, though I started playing guitar when I was eight.

In the past several years, I have developed an interest in world drumming and continue to hone my skills as a percussionist.

What grade levels do you teach?

I teach K-8 general music at a public charter school. I also teach choir (grades 5-6 and 7-8).

We are trying to start an after-school band program, but it's a tough go in a school with 95 percent free and reduced lunch and no budget for instruments. My classroom is rooted in the philosophy of Orff-Schulwerk, which emphasizes singing, speaking, movement and instrument playing. There is a lot of room for creativity and improvisation within the Orff-Schulwerk framework.

In what ways do you try to encourage your students to appreciate and participate in music?

I bring in guest artists. We have had the Rose Ensemble visit our school many times, and students comment on what an amazing experience it is to hear professional musicians in the same room.

I take students to the Ordway and other venues when we can find grants or reasonable ticket prices. I tell them about opportunities to make music outside of the classroom, and I attend their outside performances when I can.

I continue this practice even when they have left Achieve, and I attend high school and college concerts of former students.

Where do you see music education fitting into the broader educational spectrum?

Music fits into the broader educational spectrum by helping children realize their creative and collaborative potential. In the future, we will need people who can work with others, and music shows us how to do that in so many ways. One can practice one's individual part, but the magic happens when that part is put with other parts, or is played in front of an audience, so there is participation from both musician and audience.

We will also need people who can think creatively and find innovative solutions to problems. Music helps us do that.

What's one of the most memorable moments you've had as a music teacher?

In 2011, my choir and percussion ensemble were chosen to perform at MMEA. The amount of work that went into presenting that performance — and then performing for the incredibly attentive audience — was a thrill I will never forget.

The students were mostly excited about eating at Ping's Chinese restaurant afterward, but performing in front of my colleagues was one of the scariest and most rewarding things I've ever done.

Do you have a story of an experience where music education made a difference in a student's life?

I am in contact with former students, so I asked one of them if she thought studying music made a difference in her life. Michaela Starr, who is currently studying at University of Wisconsin - River Falls, told me, "I would say that music changes everyone's lives. It's an emotional outlet, and when you teach someone to make their own music, it allows them to create part of their own identity. That's huge when you're younger and it feels like everyone else is still telling you who you are and who you should be."

Do you participate in music outside the classroom?

I sing with the Twin Cities Show Chorus, a women's barbershop group affiliated with Sweet Adelines International. With this group I have traveled to Houston, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Honolulu to compete in international competitions. I also take lessons in taiko at Mu Performing Arts.

If you were to help program a day of music at Classical MPR, what's a piece of music you would play in the morning, and what's one you would play in the evening?

If I were programming music, I would include Randall Thompson's "Alleluia" sung by Cantus. I think this is one of the most beautiful, lush pieces of choral music. I would also include the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth. This piece has such power and joy. They could be played at any time of day, but 6 a.m. might be a little early for Beethoven.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9, mvmt 4; Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic:


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You can see more of Classical MPR's education programming at classicalmpr.org/education.


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