Nancy Gisbrecht Bailey began teaching for the Master of Liberal Studies program in winter 2007. Since then she has taught five courses and will be teaching another, Art and Music in Western European Culture II, in spring 2014. She has had many memorable experiences during her six years with the program both in the classroom and with the students whose capstones she’s directed. Dr. Bailey answered a couple questions about those experiences and what makes MLS unique.
What is different about teaching MLS students than your other teaching experiences?
At the Shepherd School I teach vocal literature to singers. They have already made a commitment to a musical career and the course is meant to provide additional information to a pre-existing base of knowledge. In the MLS program the majority of students have never had a music class and have never considered music as a field of study. It is incredibly moving to me to witness the power of that exposure to music; it reinforces time and again why I entered this field in the first place and why I derive such satisfaction from it.
Can you please share a memorable moment from your MLS experience?
This is one of those questions that triggers countless memories. Every single one of the capstones that I have directed has left an indelible impression.
Another memory – in many of my courses I give listening quizzes based on the week’s assignment to start each class session. Each time, I am reminded of how hard MLS students work to master unfamiliar concepts. Listening and identifying musical excerpts are fundamental aspects of musical training. For a class member with no musical experience, this skill can be frustrating and the test experience absolutely terrifying! But it was unbelievable for me to see how determined the students were to learn this skill and how much they improved.
But I think my favorite memory is from the first time I taught Art and Music in Western European Culture II, a course I created that would celebrate the diverse knowledge and learning experiences of the MLS students. Each class session is based upon one piece of music. Half of the student preparation time, and class time, is spent on the composer, how and why the piece was created. But the other half of preparation time and class time is spent on whatever associations were triggered by that piece – the scope is infinite.
Obviously, the success of a course like this is almost entirely dependent upon student responsibility. I was so grateful for the enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment of that first group; the class discussions were awe inspiring events and it was, hands down, the most powerful teaching experience that I have ever had. I am truly looking forward to the next installment!
What is your favorite piece of music?
My favorite piece of music changes day by day, sometimes hour by hour. I've been spending a lot of time recently listening to a song by an English pastoral school composer, Gerald Finzi, “So Have I Fared,” and Kurt Weill's astounding music for The Seven Deadly Sins.