NAfME Member Spotlight: Wendy Sims and Lifelong Music Learning

Wendy Sims and Lifelong Music Learning

NAfME Member Spotlight

 

Wendy L. Sims is the recipient of this year’s National Association for Music Education Senior Researcher Award, presented March 19, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia, at NAfME’s Music Research and Teacher Education National Conference. Sims is a professor of music education in the School of Music at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she has taught since 1985. A specialist in early childhood and elementary music education, she teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate music education courses, advises bachelor and master’s degree students, and supervises doctoral student programs and research.

 

music research
Photo of Wendy L. Sims by Rayna Sims

 

Previously, she taught K–6 general music, and continues to volunteer weekly as the music teacher for preschool and toddler classrooms in MU’s Child Development Laboratory. She is also the recipient of several prestigious teaching awards, including the Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, and the Missouri Governor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Sims has been active as a researcher, presenter, and reviewer for more than 30 years, and served as editor of the Journal of Research in Music Education from 2006 to 2014. She can be contacted at SimsW@missouri.edu.


Congratulations on being named the 2016 NAfME Senior Researcher Award recipient! What does this award mean to you?

It was a great honor to be nominated and selected by peers who understand, and apparently value, my research activities. It was very humbling to be joining the ranks of the past recipients, people whom I have admired and respected for many years.

What is your best childhood musical memory?

I had a wonderful elementary music teacher and can still recall how much I looked forward to “music days.” I even remember some of the songs that we learned, and have used them in my own teaching.

 

early childhood education
Ryan McVay | Photodisc | Thinkstock

What inspired you to become a music teacher?

I was one of those children who always wanted to be a teacher. One summer in junior high I was volunteering at a daycare center and took in my guitar to play and sing with the preschoolers. Of course, the children loved it, and I was hooked. Then, in high school I had a free hour during the Men’s Chorus class period, and the choir director found out. Soon I became the group’s accompanist, and eventually the student conductor (yes, the only girl in the group!). That experience sealed the deal—music teaching was what I needed to be doing!

Music study enriches the lives of people of all ages, from birth throughout life.

If you could share one concept about the value of music study, what would it be?

Music study enriches the lives of people of all ages, from birth throughout life. The better we are at teaching it, the more our students will develop the skills and knowledge to perform and/or appreciate music and reap the many personal and social benefits of these activities. Research is one important way for music educators to develop a deeper understanding of music learning and teaching so that we may work to enhance these processes.

What is the most important thing you bring to the classroom each day?

I hope I bring excitement about the study of music, music teaching, and research that my undergraduate and graduate students can recognize and eventually reflect in their own classrooms.

How did you get into music education research, and what are some of your major interests?

I found research fascinating from at least as far back as my Psychology 101 class. Then, I had the good fortune to work with outstanding music education scholars in my undergraduate and master’s programs at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. These scholars inspired me to pursue my Ph.D. with the prominent music education researchers at Florida State University in Tallahassee. My first love is actually still teaching preschoolers, and much of my research related to music listening and concept development were inspired by their responses during my lessons. I also have become very interested in research about how best to prepare students at the opposite end of the educational spectrum, doctoral students in music education—our future teacher-educators and researchers.

All children should grow up in an environment filled with parents and teachers who share music with them, encourage their playful as well as formal music-making and study, and model the importance of music in their own lives.

Which researchers particularly inspired you?

I was extremely fortunate to have two amazing research mentors, Terry Lee Kuhn at Kent State and Clifford K. Madsen at Florida State (the first recipient of this award in 1988).

What’s the one thing you wish everybody on the planet knew?

All children should grow up in an environment filled with parents and teachers who share music with them, encourage their playful as well as formal music-making and study, and model the importance of music in their own lives.

What would you say is the greatest challenge for music education researchers?

Translating our research to make it accessible, meaningful, and useful to the very busy individuals who teach music in schools from preK through grade 12 is probably our greatest challenge. Ensuring that all undergraduate music education students are introduced to music education research in a positive, unintimidating, curiosity-filled environment may be a very good way to begin.


Ella Wilcox, Manager, Editorial Communications, June 1, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)