By Kelly Carr
Music moves me. Sometimes it’s physical as I listen to tunes while running to keep my pace (and to distract me from how tired I am!). Sometimes it’s spiritual—I can be drawn to tears in the song portion of worship services when the truths about God are powerfully communicated through lyric and harmony.
I get even more energized about music when I am around my friend Donna Doran. She is the education director of Linton Music’s Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions and the Lower School music teacher at The Summit Country Day School. When I hear Donna describe her passion for a particular piece of music, she sweeps me up along with her. She has spent years making a difference in children’s lives through music, and I wanted to hear her perspective as a musician and a teacher.
Surrounded by all types of music throughout her career, I wondered what instruments and pieces move her the most. Donna said she prefers playing the violin and enjoys the sound made by xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels. As for her favorite musical performance to attend? She quickly replied: “Carmina Burana—I go anytime it’s performed in town. I do have preferences of tempo and baritones though,” she admitted with a smile.
I enjoy being an audience member at a symphony or other musical performance, but I have never been a part of a band or orchestra myself. I wondered how it feels for a musician to be a part of an ensemble. Donna professed that it is “absolutely lovely. It’s a special gift to communicate with others through an instrument, to converse through music.” In fact, she hopes her young daughter and son will join a choir or other music group some day to see what that feels like to be a part of an ensemble.
Making the Next Musician
Donna didn’t begin her college years determined to pursue a degree in music education. So I wondered what changed her course. “In college I enjoyed music theory more than my chemistry classes. But I realized I was using the same kind of thinking in both subjects. I found it fascinating that there were dots on the staff and rhyme and reason and rules—what we hear fits in a structure.”
Donna went on to receive her Master of Music from University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. I asked if she ever considered a career performing rather than teaching music. She said no. Teaching children has been her focus. “I like the challenge of bringing up budding musicians.” Although teaching is not as glamorous in some people’s eyes, Donna finds it rewarding. “People downplay the role of music teachers. They think we didn’t make it. No, we care about making the next musician. Everybody has to start somewhere.”
When Donna teaches first through third graders, she uses the Orff approach to music education because it engages a child’s whole mind and body. Her favorite part about teaching kids is when she gets to see “the joy that it brings them to successfully play music well together—they realize that they are creating it. They accomplish something they didn’t think they could ever do.”
Music inspires, builds confidence, and teaches in ways that go beyond words. I thank the Lord for music teachers like Donna, who continue to open the door to the musical world for children to explore.