I learned a lot of my first orchestral skills from GDYO and I teach those skills to my students now.
What was one of your favorite GDYO memories?
One of my favorite GDYO memories was performing at the Meyerson. We would have our dress rehearsal and then hang out backstage for a few hours before the concert started (while the other groups were doing their dress rehearsals) and getting to hang out with my friends that I didn’t normally go to school with was one of the best memories I had. We would do each other’s hair, talk, laugh, and play games. And of course, getting to perform at that beautiful venue was a dream come true.
Tell us about your education after graduating from GDYO.
After graduating from GDYO, I received my Bachelor of Music Education from Baylor University and my Master of Educational Administration from Lamar University.
Do you feel that GDYO had an impact on your career? How so?
Absolutely! I was in GDYO (DSE, Sinfonietta, Philharmonic, and GDYO) for 9 years and GDYO was my first orchestral experience when I started at age 9. I learned a lot of my first orchestral skills from GDYO and I teach those skills to my students now.
Tell us about your career – what are you currently up to? What achievements are you most proud of and why?
I am the Director of Orchestras at Curtis Middle School in Allen, TX. I just completed my eleventh year of teaching, with eight of those years at Curtis.
Curtis Middle School Symphony Orchestra was named the 2020 TMEA Middle School Honor Full Orchestra and both the Curtis MS Chamber and Symphony Orchestras has been named National Winners of the Mark of Excellence/National Orchestra Honors Project. I was awarded the 2017 “Marjorie Keller” Outstanding Young Teacher of the Year Award and I was also honored as the Curtis Middle School 2020 Teacher of the Year.
As a First Generation Asian American, my parents always had high expectations for me to get good grades, go to a good college, and get a good career so that I can have a stable life. They came over to this country not knowing the language and with next to nothing. They worked hard so that they could give my brother and me a better life. Of course, music was not their number one career choice for me, but they were supportive of me when I decided to go into Music Education. I always want to make them proud because of all the sacrifices they made for me, so I’m most proud of these achievements because it’s a way for me to honor my parents and everything they’ve done for me.
What unique challenges and rewards have you experienced as a music educator?
Teaching during the pandemic was definitely a challenge. Learning to teach virtually and of all things, learning to teach orchestra virtually, was a steep learning curve. We eventually figured out how to rehearse efficiently and effectively with the virtual students, but it was still not an ideal situation to rehearse online. Needless to say, we are very excited to have everyone back in person in our district next year. I cannot wait for the first day we get to make music LIVE together again!
Being a music educator is such a rewarding career – watching students go from not knowing anything about music to being an All-Stater or playing Concerto in a matter of just a few years and knowing you had a part in that important journey for them is just amazing. Watching my students have an “aha” moment or seeing their pride after a successful concert is the best feeling.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you would give to a student interested in becoming a music educator?
GET INVOLVED. If you want to be a music educator, my biggest advice is to get as much experience and network as much as possible. Take the opportunities to teach lessons, run a sectional, help with All-Region processes, observe classroom teachers, go to TMEA conventions, meet people in the business, and just get as much hands-on experience as you can. The more experience you get, the more prepared you will be when you have to run a classroom by yourself.
Tell us about some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future.
I’m about to be a mom so one of my personal goals is to be the best mom that I can be to my daughter, while also balancing my roles as a wife and teacher. I love being a middle school orchestra teacher, but I would also like to explore high school or even college one day.
Who or what inspires you?
My parents have been a big inspiration in my life. Starting over in a new country that they knew nothing about, working seven days a week for fifteen-hour days, and all of this just so that my brother and I can have a better life is the ultimate sacrifice and really taught me what hard work really is. My teachers I had growing up were also big inspirations to me. Because of the wonderful teachers I had, that really gave me a passion to always strive to be the best teacher I can be so I can have the same impact on the next generation.
Any hobbies, fun facts, or life highlights outside your career you’d like to share?
My husband and I LOVE travelling and we love to travel overseas and see different cultures, try new foods, meet new people, and just explore the world. The pandemic has been especially hard for us since we haven’t been able to travel, but we hope with things getting better, we can start our travel adventures again and now with our new little travel buddy! I can’t wait to see the world through the eyes of a new traveler and all the exciting adventures we will have together!
What advice would you give to current GDYO kids?
My advice to current GDYO kids is to learn as much as you can, seize every opportunity, and explore whatever interests you. You won’t be a kid forever, so take the opportunity now to explore and find your passion. Life is too short to not do what you love. This sounds a little cliché, but this saying is so true, “The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls.”
THANK YOU TO AMANDA FOR BEING A PART OF GDYO’S ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT!
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW WOULD BE INTERESTED IN SHARING THE ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT OR WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION REGARDING THE ACTIVITIES OF THE GDYO ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, CONTACT CHARILYNE ROJAS AT CHARILYNE@GDYO.ORG.