As commencement approaches, two Keene State College music students reflected on their growth throughout their time at KSC.
Madison Shimko, a music education student, described her experience at Keene State as life-changing.
“I’ve really come out of my shell as a person and been more excited to meet new people and make new connections with others,” Shimko said. “I’ve also gained so many valuable skills through my degree program that have really prepared me for a career in music education.”
Shimko noted her experience student teaching as a key part in her evolution as an educator. This semester, she has been teaching music to elementary students grades K-5. She said feels grateful that studying at Keene State College gave her the extended amount of time to student teach that she may not have gotten at another institution.
“During this placement I felt like I had a lot of time to develop my classroom management skills and discover activities and content that I really enjoy teaching,” Shimko said.
Shimko also credited her professors in helping her grow as an educator. She said the small class sizes at Keene State allowed for those connections to play a significant role in her education. “My professors have always been a listening ear for frustrations and a source of feedback throughout my four years in my program. Having these connections with my professors… has really helped me develop to my full potential as a music educator,” Shimko said.
Dr. John Hart, one of Shimko’s music professors, has seen her grow as both a flutist and an educator throughout her time in the music program. He emphasized her ability to take an obstacle and face it head on.
“Maddy is perhaps one of the most courageous students I’ve ever met. Whenever an obstacle has appeared on her path… Maddy has always persevered,” Hart said.
Hart also noted Shimko’s ability to turn the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic into a positive for both herself and those around her.
“In some people, I see the tendency to regress or retreat into themselves, but Maddy has adopted the mindset to make every day count,” Hart said. “Now that she’s teaching children, she’s using that fire and passion to make other people’s lives better.”
After graduation, Shimko hopes to find a music teaching position in New Hampshire. She also expressed hopes to expand upon her studies in music education in a graduate program in the future.
“I’m excited to see what life holds for me, and I look forward to trying new things and traveling to new places,” Shimko said.
Nicholas So, a music performance student, is also preparing to take the next step toward life beyond Keene State College.
With a double major in music performance and biology, So had to master the art of time management. So said he selected Keene State specifically for that flexibility to juggle both degrees.
“I have to constantly shift my brain over from the scientific side to the music side,” So said. “It’s a lot of time management, I just had to be efficient.”
However, So said balancing these two degrees has made him more well-balanced as an individual. Additionally, those lessons in self-discipline are something So said he will take away from his experience at Keene State College.
“I think I truly mastered that here because of the double degree… Self discipline is really necessary here at Keene, and the drive to be something greater than you currently are.” So said.
So credits his junior recital as an important step in getting him to where he is now as a musician. “It really helped me kind of see where I was at as a musician, and kind of get into the steps that I need to take to get better.”
Due to not having many other violin majors in the program, So said the biggest obstacle he faced during his time at KSC was a lack of competition. There wasn’t a person he could compare himself to as a way of improving his own skills. He said there are upsides and downsides to this.
“So the luxury is, you know, I’m always picked for everything. I’m picked for all the performances, I get all the performing opportunities. The obstacle is that I don’t have someone to collaborate with,” So said. Throughout his time at Keene State College, So said he not only expanded his knowledge about music and the professional world, but also matured as an individual. After graduating from Keene State College this spring, So is planning to continue his education and eventually become a college professor himself.
For the students still finishing their degrees at KSC, So stressed the importance of staying motivated– even when the pandemic can make it difficult to do so.
“With tough times like COVID, for example, it’s important not to give up on your education,” So said.
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