UNT internship turns College of Music students into virtual instructors

Friday, May 3, 2024

Virtual music lesson with a Dallas ISD student

Nathan Fisher, a first-year master’s student studying jazz trumpet, in a virtual music lesson with a Dallas ISD student

DENTON (UNT), Texas — A unique collaboration between the University of North Texas and the Dallas Independent School District has dozens of College of Music students teaching music lessons online to hundreds of middle and high school students.

The Virtual Private Music Lesson Program (VPML) pairs 80 UNT undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students with those in grades six through 12 from more than 40 Dallas ISD secondary campuses.

In its second year, the initiative provides students from the College of Music — the largest public university music program in the U.S. — a paid internship experience and the opportunity to assist young musicians improve their skills.

The weekly, 30-minute vocal and instrumental lessons are funded by Dallas ISD and provided free of charge to its students from campuses that are designated “high priority” due to socioeconomic and other challenges impacting student populations.

“We are providing paid internships for our most accomplished graduate students as teachers of young people in the Dallas ISD community, and we are providing pathways to futures these young people could not have imagined but for this program,” College of Music dean and professor John W. Richmond said.

Nathan Fisher, a first-year master’s student studying jazz trumpet, in a virtual music lesson with a Dallas ISD studentThe music lessons emanate from three virtual teaching rooms at UNT’s Music Building. The on-campus location is convenient for student-teachers to lead lessons amid their own busy class schedules, practice sessions and performances.   

“In a day, UNT students may be teaching back-to-back lessons to a beginner musician in sixth grade who is just learning their instrument and a high school senior who is polishing a piece to perform at a college audition,” said Casey Goldman, associate director of Community Engagement and Collaboration for the College of Music.

The VPML program also serves as an introduction to higher education for some Dallas ISD students. Participants will visit UNT and take part in campus tours, meet-and-greets and performances by College of Music student ensembles, among other activities.

“Getting them to talk about college and seeing themselves as part of the university and as having a place here is really cool,” Goldman said. “It’s a way to foster our relationship with them.”

Nathan Fisher, a first-year master’s student studying jazz trumpet performance, began tutoring in the VPML program in Fall 2023. This semester, he has tailored his lessons specifically for each of the 18 students he tutors.

“I’m learning to meet them where they are in terms of their skill level,” Fisher said. “They’re coming from different parts of Dallas, they have different backgrounds and even different instruments — some students have trumpets and others have cornets.”

Nathan Fisher, a first-year master’s student studying jazz trumpet, in a virtual music lesson with a Dallas ISD student (#2)Fisher said he is impressed with the effort and enthusiasm that his students routinely display.

“They want to be there, they want to improve. They love music and the community that comes with it.”

One of Fisher’s students, Josue Flores, is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. He won a division medal earlier this year at a district music competition and credits Fisher for helping to improve his trumpet performance.

“He really helped me feel like I am one with the music, that I’m really feeling every note,” said the teen, who plans to study trumpet in college and pursue a career in music education.

“Any time you can go into a situation musically and have students from UNT involved, it’s a win-win situation,” said Matthew Edwards, the district’s director of choral, elementary, and general music. “The virtual format is the best option to provide supplemental music instruction to students on multiple campuses within the sprawling Dallas ISD.”

Besides bolstering their musical talent, Edwards said VPML is producing other tangible results among Dallas ISD students.

“This is a confidence booster. They’re communicating. They’re going in prepared for lessons,” he said. “There are extra benefits that have nothing to do with music, but have everything to do with being a successful human being.”

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Media Contacts:

Chelsey Gilbert

From UNT News – Arts and Music