Changing Music Education One Voice at a Time
Master in Education (M.Ed.) student Rebecca Fromherz is passionate about music, education, and opera. Through the M.Ed. special studies strand, Rebecca has been able to combine her talent as an accomplished international opera singer with her desire to provide a musical outlet for people of all ages and abilities.
Rebecca’s music background is extensive and impressive. She has been studying music for over 20 years, including formal education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a prestigious and selective undergraduate music program. She also studied under the tutelage of acclaimed opera singers in the USA and Europe, and went on to enjoy a successful professional opera career.
During her time as music student and performer, Rebecca learned the work of singing and how to sing, but not who she was as a singer. In Italian, the word “opera” means work. To Rebecca, singing is holistic and total person “heART” work, so before enrolling in Willamette’s M.Ed. program Rebecca shifted her focus from full-time professional vocalist to entrepreneur and founder of “Opera Organically”, a school for voice in Dallas, Oregon.
Founded by Rebecca’s drive to enhance the world of music education, and in response to the loss of music in Pk-12 schools, Opera Organically is meeting a need for her students. Rebecca’s professional music career and training add depth of knowledge to her practice, and according to Rebecca, “The M.Ed. at Willamette was a good fit because my desire to create something new was honored. Every idea has been affirmed. In Rebecca’s view, “Singing is an integral part of being human to some people”. Through her approach to music education, Rebecca offers a safe place for people of all ages to find themselves as singers, and is a resource to people who need to sing but can’t.
The M.Ed courses have offered pedagogical tools and the faculty have supported her vision of holistic music education. Student-centered learning is one of the primary philosophies of the M.Ed. program, and this resonates with Rebecca. In her opinion, the singer knows their voice and the teacher is only guide; student as teacher. “It has been fantastic to work with professors who transform my ideas as performer, into what my students need” said Rebecca.
In addition to honing pedagogical tools, she has also learned about learning theories and how they can apply to her unique approach to music education. Through Clinical Instructor Neil Liss’ class, she has learned that “creating a safe place is very related to John Dewey’s theory on art and experience and Nel Noddings Care Theory. These concepts are very relatable and it has been like coming home to learn about these philosophers”.
The M.Ed. program is also inquiry based. As a result, students develop an action research project that they work on throughout the program and weave into the coursework. Rebecca’s action research tracks how the safe place that she strives to create in her studio and the techniques that she is using, transforms the way her vocal students think about themselves and their voices. In addition, she is looking to see how singing connects the individuals in her study with one another.For Rebecca, Opera Organically is an attempt to change the world one voice at a time, and the M.Ed. program is helping to support and clarify her vision.
Becca Fromherz, M.Ed., '13, Opera Organically