Director of Bands, Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, TX
One of Sarah McKoin’s goals is to make sure that music is observed as being “art for art’s sake.” Music education has a purpose, and Sarah prioritizes finding that purpose and relaying it to her students.
Growing up in Indiana and Michigan, Sarah always knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Her career path formed around her passion for music. To kick off her journey toward becoming a music educator, Sarah attended Michigan State University for her Bachelor’s Degree. She later attended Wichita State for graduate school.
During her musical journey, she moved to Texas to teach high school band before studying at the University of Texas for her doctorate. Sarah held a high interest in discovering what made Texas schools so amazing. “The standards, and the curriculum, and the passion, and the way that they teach, it’s not everybody, they, are really exemplary,” Sarah said. “There is some fine, fine, fine teaching going on in Texas. I’m inspired by it. I feel fortunate I get to be around those people.”
Sarah has since found a family in her Texas Tech band community, where she teaches her students to follow their passions.
When asked what her passion is, Sarah responded with, “My passion is teaching, and music, and people, I guess those three things. I love to teach. I love seeing kids get it. I love seeing students put themselves out there. I love when you have particularly special performances and the connection that goes with that, it’s intangible. You don’t get that in math class, or I never did. I love that. That makes getting up and going to work exciting. I like teaching, and people, and music. I love that.”
Fulfilling a passion is simply not enough. Sarah believes that there has to be ways to continuously seek and feed that passion. She encourages teachers to challenge themselves to hear new ensembles, set higher standards for their students, and find a balance with new experiences.
As a woman in music, Sarah says, “People often ask me, ‘What’s it like being a woman conductor?’ and I’m like, “I don’t know. I’ve never been a man, so I don’t really have an answer for that.” Everyone who has influenced Sarah are quite amazing musicians, who just so happen to be men. “Music doesn’t really know a gender, and art doesn’t really know a gender, and passion doesn’t really know a gender.”
Sarah wants to create a platform for young musicians to understand the purpose of music. “I think sometimes I see students come in and it’s very segregated between, “We did this, and we did this, and we did this, and we did this.” Sarah thinks that this mindset causes students to lose sight of all that music has to offer. She believes music should be experienced as a special gift rather than “a goal-driven trophy”. Sarah says, “I think Bands of America does a great job with taking art and music and still having a competitive environment, but making it something that’s an artistic experience.” The gap between high school and college does not have to be the cause of attrition in music.
Sarah concludes that once students develop an understanding of applying musical solutions to technical problems, they will have a much more mature way of thinking.