The Journey from Music Student to Teacher

Valerie DemmaAn Interview with Valerie Demma, Winner of Alfred’s 90th Anniversary Sweepstakes and recent music graduate from St. Xavier University

By Anna Wentlent, Editor of School Choral and Classroom Music

Did you begin making music with your family, or were you introduced to it in school?
My musical upbringing started in fifth grade when I first joined my grammar school’s choir. I initially joined because a few of my friends did, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to stick with it!

Do you have any favorite Alfred choral pieces?
My favorite Alfred piece would have to be the piece that Sally K. Albrecht dedicated to my grammar school’s district choral festival in 1997 when she was our guest clinician: “Gloria Deo!” (2-part, 00-16955). Out of the hundreds of choral pieces that I’ve sung in my life, I can actually remember singing this one! The memory of this particular choral festival is one of my favorites, because as a young singer, I thought it was neat that we were actually working with the person who wrote the song that we were singing (and that she autographed a copy of the music for me).

Why did you decide to become a music educator?
I first thought about becoming a music educator after seventh grade, when working with Dr. Sandra Snow, another guest clinician at one of our district choral festivals. She is the most supportive person that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She made me feel so positive about singing that I decided that I wanted to devote my career to inspiring students in the same way that she inspired me.

What has your experience in music school been like so far?
Collegiate music has been a welcome challenge. As a choral singer, I have been eager to get into the “meat and potatoes” music—major works that require a substantial, large chorus. I’ve had the opportunity to sing works like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Handel’s The Messiah and Coronation Anthems, and Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder and Neue Liebeslieder.

What do you plan to do after school?
I’m planning to obtain my graduate degree in choral music education. After completing that degree, my career goal is to teach high school choral music and sing in a professional chorus.

How do you plan to use your prizes from Alfred’s 90th Anniversary Sweepstakes?
I have actually decided to donate the majority of my prizes from the Sweepstakes. I kept three of the smaller prizes for myself, and then I donated the other prizes and split the online credit to the Alfred website between two very deserving choral music programs: my former high school director’s choirs (Meredith McGuire at Oak Lawn Community High School) and my current voice instructor’s choirs (Dr. Stacy Eckert at Providence Catholic High School). The decision was immediate; I didn’t even give it a second thought. I have been looking for the opportunity to give back to these two very deserving teachers who helped shape my musical career, and winning this contest provided me with that opportunity!

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