School of the Arts December ’20 graduate Cora Elmore spent her summer at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan teaching piano to high school pianists. She was selected for one of six coveted teaching assistant positions. “It is extremely competitive to be selected, making her selection all the more impressive since most applicants are post-masters or doctoral candidates,” said Dr. Jason Terry, assistant professor of piano at Samford and a member of the piano faculty at the summer program. “These positions are highly sought after because of the networking with current faculty/staff and because the connection to Interlochen is extremely valuable for one’s professional trajectory.”
Interlochen Center for the Arts is a world-renowned institution, bringing together close to 4,000 young artists from all over the world. Most summers, all fifty states and approximately 50 countries are represented. “Faculty and staff from some of the top institutions join together in training these young professionals, making the experience all the more exciting and eventful,” said Terry. He and his colleague Dr. Angela Yoon, assistant professor of voice at Samford, are both on the summer faculty there.
Terry encouraged Elmore to apply, and the experience has not disappointed. “Interlochen is such a beautiful campus and is in such a breathtaking part of northern Michigan. I love that I can experience all the joys of teaching while also having a ‘summer break’ at camp. It’s probably the best summer job experience you could have,” said Elmore.
Along with the opportunity to network, Elmore says that she has learned a lot about teaching. “One of the things that stands out is realizing that it’s okay to not know everything, or to not be able to answer every question. But I found that I did have things to teach my students, and they had things to teach me. Learning and teaching are not mutually exclusive. The truth is: we are all learning and growing alongside one another as artists and musicians, and we never stop doing so.”
Elmore plans to return to Samford this fall to pursue her Master of Music (M.M.) degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy and eventually earn a DMA in Piano Performance, giving her the opportunity to serve as a university faculty member. She is excited about this decision as she has developed a rapport with current faculty and witnessed the refinements made in the graduate program. Terry and Dr. Cindy St. Clair, interim chair of the Division of Music and assistant professor of piano have worked on creating a program that better reflects the needs of a 21st-century MM in Piano Performance and Pedagogy program. Much of the coursework has been reimagined and even connected with other Samford resources such as collaborating with the Department of Physical Therapy to give students more complete knowledge of interaction with instruments from a physical perspective.
Her return to Samford is a win-win for both Elmore and Terry. “I received an excellent foundational music education during my undergraduate study at Samford. The applied lessons, pedagogy courses, piano literature courses, music theory, and musicology classes have well prepared me to be successful as a teacher,” said Elmore. “The School of the Arts is like one big family. I’ve always felt valued and cared about here, both as a musician and scholar, as well as an individual.” She also credits Terry, “Dr. Jason Terry has been such a special mentor to me both as a person and as a musician. He has helped me grow so much as an artist. He is an excellent teacher, and his passion for music is contagious. He challenged and inspired me to grow in musical artistry as well as professionally.”
“Cora has just the right combination of leadership, curiosity, professionalism, aptitude, concern, and ability. It’s common to see one or two of these attributes in someone, but to have all represented so strongly is rare indeed. I’m happy for her presence among us for these next two years, and I’m excited to see how she continues to grow, not only as a musician, but as an artist-teacher,” said Terry.
Elmore is a musician and teacher at heart. “I believe music is a delight to be shared. As musicians we have the special privilege of being able to share a part of who we are with our audience. I love bringing music with meaning to my community, and I’m dedicated to encouraging and helping other artists,” she said.