KA: My question is: should I ever confront him? Because I bet I’ll see him again at some point in my career.
Katie is talking about Dr. Christopher Azzara, a well-known and respected professor of music education. He was teaching at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York when she started her freshman year at the University of Rochester in 2006.
KA: I wanted to do a BA-MA and that meant taking “Intro to Music Education”. When I joined the class in my freshman year, he pulled me into his office after the first class and said, “I need to make sure you are capable of taking this class since you are not an Eastman student and you need to sing My Country Tis of Thee”. I think I forgot the words, I was so nervous. He told me that I wasn’t ready and needed to withdraw from the class. So I did.
JT: Withdraw from Intro to Music Education?
KA: Yeah. Oh, I should tell my students this story!
Katie is always looking for new ways to use her experience and intuition to inspire her students.
KA: In my sophomore year, I registered for the class again, got through maybe two classes and he went, “oh okay, it’s you again, I need to give you a test.” He gave me a polyrhythm test where I had to speak one rhythm, pat another rhythm on my lap, and keep a macro beat in my feet. Eastman students are given two years’ warning to prepare for it. I was given none.
KA: So I failed that. Also, I was really nervous. I thought, “if I can’t sing My Country Tis of Thee in front of this man, I’m not gonna be able to do polyrhythms.” And really, it had nothing to do with if I would be a good teacher. For what I do today, it’s just not relevant.
JT: What did he say?
KA: He told me that I had to withdraw from the class. And that’s when I knew that probably was not true. So I went to the U of R academic advisor to music majors and explained the situation. And he said, “that doesn’t sound right, let me call up the music ed department at Eastman.”
KA: I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, but I felt like this man was trying to use a power that he didn’t really have. Because I was 19 and obviously nervous.
KA: The head of music ed at Eastman, Dr. Susan Conkling, agreed that Dr. Azzara can’t just kick someone out of Intro to Music Ed. Azzara did apologize to me but didn’t really look at me for the rest of the year. He gave me a B+ at the end of it. I thought I deserved better, but I wasn’t going to fight it. Anyway, I got through.