Alexander Looney: The Music Man

Alexander Looney will be the student speaker at the Fall Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m. He is graduating with a B.M. Music Education (Choral/General), summa cum laude.

Hometown: Uniontown, Ohio

Graduate: Lake High School, Uniontown

What’s next?

I accepted a position at Marlington High School as the long-term substitute high school choir director from Jan. 4 through June 9. In the spring, I will be applying for full-time middle and high school choir director positions for the 2016-2017 academic year at public schools around the state of Ohio and in neighboring states.

Q: Have you studied abroad? Tell us about it and its impact on you.

A: This past June, I traveled to Portland, Jamaica, on a 10-day study abroad/service learning trip through the State University of New York Potsdam. This trip included 26 music education and music therapy undergraduate and graduate students from around the United States. We stayed at the Great Huts Resort, built on a cliff looking over the Caribbean Sea, in authentic bamboo bungalows and huts. During this trip, I taught music to students at Nonsuch Primary School, a rural one-room school in Portland, Jamaica, for students in first through sixth grade. I also took classes in Afro-Caribbean drumming and completed music education training for teaching at the primary school each night. Along with my teaching team, I taught American and Caribbean folk songs, Afro-Caribbean drumming and recorder to the students.

Overall, this experience was life changing, impactful, educational, inspirational and a true adventure. The music teaching experiences at Nonsuch Primary School completely reaffirmed my passion for music education and confirmed how music is a universal language to people of different cultures, religions and backgrounds. I had the opportunity to learn about and experience the Jamaican educational system. Through cultural immersion (interaction with locals, food, accommodations and experiences), I learned about the people of Jamaica, their culture and customs, and their day-to-day lives. I would encourage all students to travel on a study abroad experience of any length and location. It will open your eyes, change your life and positively impact your future career.

Q: Did you do an internship or co-op? How did that help you prepare for a career? 

A: I completed my student teaching internship at Jackson Local Schools in Massillon this past semester. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I taught with Suzanne Walters, the general music teacher at Strausser Elementary. I taught full kindergarten through fifth grade general music classes, worked with the choir, and assisted with all aspects of the general music program. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, I taught with Scott Eversdyke, director of choral activities at Jackson High School. I led full choral warm-ups, sight-reading exercises, sectionals and rehearsals in the seventh grade choirs, Freshmen Chorus, Chorale and Concert Choir. I also worked with three after school choirs and the fall musical, “The Music Man.”

This comprehensive teaching experience was invaluable to my future career in music education and completely reaffirmed my passion for music education. I had the opportunity to learn from and work alongside two incredible, inspirational, successful and passionate music educators. They provided me with a variety of teaching experiences and relevant feedback to help me grow as an educator. Overall, this culminating experience allowed me to cultivate my teaching skills and refine my craft. I simply would not be where I am today without the tutelage, high quality education, support and inspiration of School of Music professors Ann Usher, Bryan Nichols, Frank Ward, Marie Bucoy-Calavan, Galen Karriker, Laurie Lashbrook and retired professors Laurie Lafferty and Tucker Jolly.

Q: What's your advice to incoming freshmen?

A: Find your passion and always strive for the highest. I found my passion for music through studying piano from age 5, membership in the band and choir programs at Lake Local Schools, and membership in the Summit Choral Society from second through 12th grade. During my senior year of high school, I officially decided to pursue a career in music education to positively impact future generations through a quality and comprehensive music education. Each individual person will find his or her specific passion at different times in life. Whether it is your freshmen year of high school or college, find a program of study that you love and have a vested interest in. Once you find that degree program, invest your whole self in it and have the highest expectations for yourself and your work. Get involved on campus, make connections, and find experiences inside and outside the University that will positively impact your future career. Above all else, be yourself and find a healthy balance in college between your studies, campus involvement and free time. Go Zips!

Kate Kosar