If you are a fan of Edgar Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” (1901), it’s certainly your month. It’s graduation season, the time when many thousands of graduates across the U.S. proceed to the tune of what is now recognized as the graduation march. The “regal melody, warm tone colors, and stately […] tempo” of the familiar piece suggest the significance of the moment––an occasion that marks the conclusion of one stage of life and the advent of another. It is solemnity, significance, and celebration in a single song.
Music is like that; it often defines a moment and frames a memory. For some, like RCLS alumna Steffi Tetzloff (RCLS 2001-2012), who is currently studying both Trumpet Performance and Economics at Oklahoma State University, it even shapes a life. Steffi, along with her trumpet studio-mates, recently won first place in the large ensemble division at the 2018 National Trumpet Competition. In order to win that title, the ensemble made it through a video round and three live rounds playing an arrangement of Stravinsky's “Rite of Spring.” For Steffi, the award is another milestone in a musical career that has its genesis at Rochester Central Lutheran School (RCLS), her Preschool-Grade 8 alma mater.
Steffi’s musical career started early. After watching her older sister, Katie (RCLS 1999-2008), play in RCLS’s beginning band, Steffi knew she, too, would join the school’s band program just as soon as she was able. She first remembers enjoying music “in early elementary, where we learned to play xylophones and recorder.” As she approached 4th grade, she thought she might like to be a percussionist, but she tried the trumpet at Rochester Symphony’s Honk, Squeak, Scratch, Boom! and knew immediately it was the instrument for her. Since then, Steffi has learned to play a number of instruments in the trumpet family––something she does quite well, it seems.
As Steffi recounts her musical career, she notes her early band experiences at RCLS and explains how those offered a solid foundation for future learning:
I immediately loved band, and I joined the jazz band in 5th grade. Mrs. Engelmann taught us the fundamentals of music in a fun environment and exposed us to a variety of different musical experiences including concert band, pep band, jazz band, and solo [and] ensemble contest. When I went to John Marshall, I continued to play trumpet and participated in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, and Pit Orchestra there. The foundation that was built during my time in the RCLS music program helped me to excel within the JM music program and beyond. I was selected to the Big 9 Select Band and Orchestra and MMEA All-State Band and Orchestra, and outside of school I played in SEMYO (one year) and Minnesota Youth Symphonies (three years).
It’s no wonder, perhaps, that the young girl that attended RCLS found her passion in music. After all, there is no shortage of music instruction and opportunity at RCLS. Music classes begin in preschool and continue all the way through 8th grade. Band begins in 4th grade, and a bell choir is offered in middle school. Music is clearly a priority at this school. In this age of STEM, why is this so?
Mrs. Ann Peter, RCLS’s music instructor, notes that music involves the entire brain. Playing music demands concentration, she contends. Also, there is the added benefit of opportunities to practice quick problem solving. “Musicians must learn to make very quick decisions,” she explains, “to deal with their mistakes and still keep the music flowing.” RCLS’s band instructor, Mrs. Annette Engelmann, agrees: “Children learn many life skills from early exposure to being in a musical ensemble. They learn character development in learning to be patient with playing in a band or an orchestra. Children learn to take turns when singing in a choir.” Even more, Mrs. Engelmann notes, there is research that links music to the development of spatial intelligence, and music has been shown to boost language development and even number sense. In other words, music instruction plays a critical role in developing the whole child. The art form serves not only to develop musical literacy, but also the broader intellect and even a child’s character and work ethic.
Steffi’s parents, Jon and Sabine, agree. “Without a doubt,” they say, “music education had a great impact on both of our daughters.” Their daughters, it appears, have done quite well since their school years at RCLS. When Steffi completes her Trumpet Performance and Economics degrees at Oklahoma State, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in classical music performance. Meanwhile, Steffi’s sister, Katie, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Katie has recently been awarded a coveted National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Not so many years ago, these accomplished young women were little girls at RCLS, learning in elementary classrooms and laboring through the early days of playing a new musical instrument. Now, as Steffi recalls her time at RCLS, she remembers a “thorough academic curriculum, small class sizes, and dedicated teachers.” Steffi and her parents suggest that these, together with those treasured, early years of music, have helped to shape her into the remarkable student, musician, and woman that she has become.
In this month of graduations––even as we graduate another beloved class of 8th graders–– we are delighted to remember RCLS alumni such as the Tetzloffs. Indeed, to hear of their accomplishments is to celebrate them all over again.
Congratulations, Steffi Tetzloff! RCLS is proud of you!
Curious how to get your child interested in music? Here is what the experts have to say:
Mrs. Engelmann offers these helpful tips for introducing young children to the joy of music:
1. From the time children are born, play soothing music as your child is going to sleep.
2. Introduce children to a variety of music.
3. Sing to/with your children from the time they are infants. There are many great CDs for children. A couple of my favorites are one from the group Arison. This is my kids' most requested CD. Also, there is Beethoven's Wig CD that takes classical songs and pairs the song with silly lyrics.
4. If possible, offer children the chance to play an instrument.
5. Purchase musical instruments (triangles, tambourines, drums) for children starting at about age 2-3 to play on at home.
6. Dance is definitely a way to encourage a love of music. Put on some of your favorite dance music and bust a move. Dance with your kids.
7. Record them singing and let them listen. Sing with them and record. Modern technology makes this really fun for children.
8. Take them to live concerts, festivals, or other performances.
Steffi Tetzloff advises that the “key to enjoying music is finding the right instrument.” Additionally, she notes, it is motivating that “there are many positive social aspects of participating in [a] school music program.” Students in school music programs “make a lot of friends” and, especially in high school, “have the opportunity to travel” with the band or choir.