Duarte preparing for life in the classroom

August 25, 2010

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University senior Joel Duarte has only a few months to prepare for one of life’s biggest changes … transitioning from a full-time college student to a working adult. But unlike some students who face the transition with a sense of uncertainty, Duarte feels prepared for whatever challenges lay ahead.

A music education major from Dallas, Duarte is wrapping up his formal education in the classroom this semester as he student teaches, working with Walter Wright and the Plainview High School and junior high choirs.

Duarte has been immersed in the School of Music since setting foot on the Wayland campus, taking full advantage of the opportunities and requirements of his chosen academic program. He has been a member of International Choir and the premier ensemble Spirit. He has also assisted in conducting the Children’s Chorus of Plainview and worked with other various musical groups on campus. His hard work was recognized and rewarded as earlier this summer Duarte was selected as a guest conductor for the annual Texas Choral Directors Association meeting of music educators held in San Antonio. Duarte conducted a choir made up of other choir directors and educators at the San Antonio Convention Center.

Duarte was nominated by WBU Professor of Music Dr. Scott Herrington to serve as a guest conductor. Only a handful of college students are selected for the honor each year.

“I nominated Joel because he is a music education major and he has always been very interesting in conducting,” Herrington said. “I thought this would be a good experience for him.”

Each year every collegiate music program in the state is invited to nominate students for the program, but only 18 are selected. Once they enter the mentoring program, they work with other college educators to advance their conducting skills. Duarte worked with University of North Texas faculty member Jerry McCoy. For Duarte, it was an experience he said he will never forget.

“It was cool to see everyone from other universities and to just represent Wayland,” he said. “We are a small university and sometimes people forget about us. It was cool to go up there and tell everyone who I was and where I was from.”

Duarte received the music he would be conducting and began working on it earlier in the summer. He said it is important for the conductor to understand the history behind a piece before beginning to work with music. He researched the composer and the genre of the piece and the time period when it was composed. Duarte said knowing all of the background information determines how one approaches the piece.

“If it was a contemporary piece or a 20th century piece, or something from the Baroque era, like what I had, it is not the same,” Duarte said. “There are different techniques and qualities to the music.”

Duarte said he really drew from his class experiences under Dr. Herrington to prepare for the experience. As he started the process of marking the score and making notes of areas that he thought might be more difficult, he began to realize that the strenuous nature of Dr. Herrington’s courses really prepared him for the opportunity.

“I was just doing what we did in class,” he said.

The choir performed as a site-reading choir, just having a few minutes to work with the piece prior to performance, making it imperative that Duarte knew the areas of focus and how to conduct the music. He said the performance went well, despite his nerves. The most important thing, however, was that he was able to share it with his professors and several close friends who were at the conference as teachers and conductors.

“That was the best part,” he said, “just sharing it with my friends and the people who have supported me.”

Now, Duarte wants to take his education and pass it along to another generation of students. His desire is to return to the Metroplex and teach music in the public school system.

“Wherever God puts me, I’ll go. But I really feel called back to the Metroplex,” Duarte said. “A lot of people ask me why I want to work in (the Dallas) I.S.D., but I say bring it on. … I’m there for the students. I’m there to share what my experiences were like and hopefully change things for them in a positive way.”

Duarte knows it will be tough to teach music in a system that seems to continually place less importance on education in the arts in lieu of mandatory testing in other subjects. But he also knows that students must take advantage of their opportunities and he hopes to give them the opportunity to see how important music education can be in their lives.

“There’s more to it than having a nice, good-sounding choir,” he said. “It’s what the music does in the students, what it does for their futures.”