Author: Allyson Wainright
You can hear claps, snaps, and pats in Meredith Regan’s classroom, on the playground, and even during lunch. Students joyfully practiced clapping songs and games from music class throughout the school day. Regan has realized that these activities were a remedy for the lack of interpersonal connection that students experienced during the early days of the pandemic. Emotional connection is part of her teaching philosophy.
“Every child or person should feel that they’re valued and loved. So, when students come into my classroom, that’s what I want them to experience: you are welcome here,” Regan says. “This is a community of love, and you all matter.”
On November 19, 2022, Regan received the 2022 North Carolina Symphony Jackson Parkhurst Award for Special Achievement, which is named for the Symphony’s former Director of Education. Each year, the award honors a music educator who has had a lasting impact on students' music education journey. The North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is dedicated to music education. It provides course materials and virtual concerts and forms partnerships with different entities to deliver an exceptional musical experience across the state. Its annual Music Educator Awards are part of this work.
When asked about the NCS Music Educator Award, Regan shared that she was “still on cloud nine.” “I am very humbled by this,” she continued. “I do not feel deserving of this award, because there are so many amazing music teachers across our state who do incredible things with students every single day.”
Regan teaches approximately 650 kids each week at Denton and Southmont Elementary in Davidson County. With her older students, she covers skills like reading music and keeping a steady beat, while with her younger students, she encourages singing, movement, expression, and creativity. At Southmont Elementary school, students also learn keyboard skills, ukulele, and recorder. Regan is attentive to her students’ needs and emotions; for 45 minutes, her classroom becomes a place where music inspires, and worries melt away. Additionally, she organizes student performances for parents and caregivers twice a year.
During the pandemic, Regan learned about the NCS One State, One Score project, which invited people to contribute to a collective, virtual performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Individuals, families, and student and community groups submitted videos, which were then compiled by the Symphony into a single video. Regan used this video to introduce Beethoven’s work to her students, who then learned to perform this new piece of repertoire. This is just one example of the resources that NCS provides for music teachers across the state.
Every great teacher has been inspired by another influential educator. For Regan, a few people come to mind, like her chorus teacher, who suggested she pursue a career in music, or her music theory teacher, James Daugherty. “He definitely was an inspiration to me, the way he taught and the relationship that he formed with his students, just the encouragement and the support that he offered,” she said. “It helped me to see how much love there is in music and what you can learn from it and gain from it.” Her teachers instilled in her a love for music, and she aims to do the same for her students. She takes pride in learning about her former students’ successes, inside and outside of music. To Regan, the end goal doesn’t have to be a career in music education but rather fond musical memories that spark joy, ease pain, and encourage the mind.