One look at the attendee, presenter—and most importantly, award recipient—lists at meeting-of-the-mind gatherings of music educators, and one can plainly see a trend emerging out of Boulder. The Music Education area at the College of Music routinely produces leaders in the field, the most recent of whom is Claire Glover (BME ’17), who won the 2020 Colorado Music Educator Association (CMEA) Young Music Educator Award.

So what makes CU Boulder so successful? And how do you define success as a music educator? We asked Associate Professor of Music Education David Rickels, chair of the Music Education area. “That’s a big question,” he says. “For most music educators, success means your students achieve the musical outcomes they want.

“Music educators equip students to fulfill their vision of music in their lives—whether they enjoy music in school, along with its personal and social benefits, and whether they carry music with them and continue to enjoy music as listeners or music makers in different forms.”

For Glover, the mentorship she received at the College of Music is key to her own success as director of bands at Mountain Ridge Middle School (MRMS) in Colorado Springs and president and concert band coordinator of the Pikes Peak Middle School Honor Band. In turn, her students are thriving.

“When I started, there were less than 300 kids in band,” recalls Glover, whose tenure at the middle school began in 2017. Since then, that number has grown to 400 participants, translating to the school’s greater participation in the CU Middle School Honor Band. 

Indeed, at MRMS, she has led the concert bands to receive superior ratings at the Colorado Bandmasters Association’s Middle School Concert Band Festival and Cañon City Blossom Festival. Additionally, the eighth-grade symphonic band under her direction was invited to perform at the 2019 CMEA conference, and the MRMS Honors Band received an invitation to perform at this year’s conference in January. 

“I’ve always been a big believer in asking questions and soliciting advice from mentors,” adds Glover. “Mentors are my guideposts.”

ben pollack and claire glover

For Ben Pollack (BME ’14)—a teacher with the Huerfano School District RE-1 in Walsenburg and the CMEA's Young Teacher of the Year in 2019—passion for the job is also key. “Teaching music is the most important thing I do,” he says. “It’s not just about music, either—it’s about teaching my students that there’s more to life than the three exits of freeway where they live.”

Concludes Rickels, reflecting on the success of these brilliant young music educators: “In every society, music is a part of our lives. And by bringing music educators into a profession that focuses on making music in schools, music becomes an even richer part of our lives."