YourClassical MPR's Project DJ

Guest co-host Emma Fischer wants to empower student voices

This week's Project DJ co-host is Emma Fischer.Provided

June 09, 2021

Emma Fischer joins Steve Staruch as the guest co-host of this week’s Project DJ on YourClassical MPR.

Emma graduated summa cum laude from Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, MN this past spring where they studied instrumental music education. Emma’s musical philosophy is based on the 3E’s: equity, empowerment, and excellence. They hope to build a classroom culture that centers on empowering student voices and pursuing the highest level of artistry. Emma is a part of the LGBTQ community and was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Their experience of these identities informs their commitment to educating inclusively, using the power of music to make passionate connections with students and audiences.

How did the trumpet become a part of your life?

“In 6th grade, we had the choice of joining either choir or band. I had done church choir and hated having to stand for so long. I knew I didn’t want to do choir. My friend Emily really wanted to play the saxophone. I decided I’d learn the saxophone with her. But, after instrument try-outs, she changed her mind to the trumpet. I was on board with learning anything, so I wrote down that I’d like to play the trumpet. As it turned out, I loved playing the trumpet. It felt good to go to band every other day. As an adult, I now understand how deeply that experience served me; it gave my joy, belonging, purpose, and community. In many ways, it was freeing. I could be myself and I knew that I belonged to this group of people. I felt like my presence mattered.”

I want to give a shout out to not only Gustavus Adolphus College, but also SW High School in Minneapolis. That’s where you begged to be a part of the pit orchestra, and where you started conducting. Is that also where you made the decision to pursue music education?

“It’s funny because I almost quit band in high school. I was embarrassed to carry my trumpet case through the hallway, but I stuck with it. About halfway through the year, my teacher approached me and asked me if I wanted to play the trumpet in the pit orchestra for a musical. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it sounded fun. I agreed and started going to rehearsals. I ended up loving pit orchestra. By the time I graduated from high school, I had played in 9 pit orchestras, 3 of which I also conducted.

“Having the opportunity to conduct in high school was a big part of what made me want to pursue music education. It was also a unique opportunity. My high school did a great job at empowering students and providing opportunities for student leadership. While I was conducting, I started to realize that music was going to be a central part of my life, even if I didn’t know how to make that happen. Then, one day in conversation, my band teacher said, ‘you’re gonna be a great band teacher someday.’ I initially dismissed the idea, but I kept thinking about what he had said. Later, at rehearsal, I suddenly became hyper-aware of the humanity of those around me and of what it meant for us to make music together. That’s when it clicked for me that music education was my path forward.”

What do you hope to achieve as a music educator?

“On the most fundamental level, I want to help improve the lives of the people in my community. I want my students to find a sense of purpose and belonging. I want them to feel empowered to be the person they want to be. I want the people around me to feel loved and valued. I’m hoping to make this world a better place for the people in it — in any small way that I can.

“As I come out of college, I’m hoping to develop a teaching framework around ‘3Es’ — equity, empowerment, and excellence. I want to deeply understand how societal power structures manifest in the music classroom. That way, my students and I can deconstruct discriminatory practices and replace them with something better. Further in this consideration of power, I want to create a space where my students' voices aren’t only heard, but where they genuinely influence what we do. I don’t teach music to serve myself, but to serve the dynamic communities around me. I want to help my students be the best versions of themselves —something I hope to accomplish by upholding rigorous standards of excellence.

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