Shenandoah Conservatory dedicated the Collins Music Learning Suite, an innovative learning space for undergraduate and graduate music education students, on Oct. 4.
The learning suite, located in rooms 209 and 211 of Ruebush Hall, provides enhanced instruction and access to technology for music education students. Music education faculty envision the Collins Music Learning Suite as a place where undergraduate and graduate music education courses will take place in a collaborative setting.
“We can’t possibly imagine what the future will bring, but what we do have is an opportunity to create a space where the right sorts of students can, instead of feeling their spirits diminish, feel them opening up still further,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Dean Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “Where is the future of music? The best group of human beings positioned to help create that future is, of course, those in our community who become music teachers.”
Named for exemplary Shenandoah alumni, Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus Charlotte A. Collins ‘85, Ed.D., and Professor Emeritus Verne E. Collins ‘84, Ed.D., the learning suite is the result of a renovation project spearheaded by Director of Music Education and Associate Professor of Music Jeffrey H. Marlatt, Ph.D., and funded primarily through alumni and faculty donors.
The room is equipped with multimedia capabilities, including a SMART Board and videocapture (a system for recording learning sessions) for students to document their lab teaching for future reflection and review. It also contains storage cabinets to house instruments specific to instrumental technique courses as well as a variety of Orff and classroom instruments for use in general music classes.
“It gives us our own space,” said sophomore music education major Alex Moore. “This space is just for music education, so it gives us a sense of home. We’re like a big family, and we know everyone in our program, so this is like our home center.”
“It feels like it’s a real classroom because we’re in an actual classroom setting similar to what they have in the public school system,” said sophomore music education major Olivia Baker.
With the implementation of the revised Bachelor of Music in music education curriculum in fall 2014, the Collins Music Learning Suite serves as a teaching space for community partnerships with area home-school co-ops. With the addition of an amplification system and one-way mirror in the current music education lab, undergraduate music education majors are able to observe teaching of home-school music classes without interrupting the class or lesson.
“It’s very different, but in a good way,” said sophomore music education major Victoria Gilliam. “With the changes of the room and the curriculum change, we have the opportunity to peer teach, and so students have the opportunity to see other students teaching, and they have the ability to record those lessons so that they can look back at what they’re saying to other students.”
Percy ’64 and Rita Barbera ’64 Ironmonger traveled from Yorktown, Virginia, for the dedication festivities. The two were part of the first graduating class from the Winchester campus, and say that Verne and Charlotte Collins had major impacts on their lives.
“Dr. [Charlotte] Collins was always there to lend an ear, just to listen to you and help you through any type of problem,” said Rita. “It didn’t have to be music. If it was personal, and you wanted to talk about it, she was there. She took the time to talk to you and talk you through whatever it was.”
“[Dr. Verne Collins] exposed me to so many different types of music,” said Percy. “I was a clarinet and saxophone player, but the music we played in the brass ensemble and in concert band were things that I used for years. I hope everyone is as fortunate as we were to have several people like this to influence their careers like these two have for us.”
“It’s not just that they were here for quite a while,” said Dr. Stepniak. “It’s that they made an extraordinary difference. We are very grateful for what Verne and Charlotte Collins have done and all they’ve given to Shenandoah Conservatory.”
Drs. Charlotte A. and Verne E. Collins joined the Shenandoah Conservatory community in 1958. In the early years, Verne, a trombonist, taught music and directed the band and brass ensemble while Charlotte, a pianist, taught music education.
Verne’s time at Shenandoah spans 40 years and includes service as dean of the conservatory from 1965 to 1972. In 1971, he assumed the deanship of Shenandoah College and Shenandoah Conservatory, and in 1974, established Shenandoah as a four-year institution. Throughout the years, Collins also served as acting president, dean of the graduate school, director of continuing education, professor of education, dean of the school of business, director of development, acting vice president for university relations and professor of business.
Charlotte completed her 50th year at Shenandoah University in 2009. She became chairman of the music education and theory divisions in 1965 and served as dean of Shenandoah Conservatory from 1972 to 2006. Collins helped develop programs in music therapy, composition, piano pedagogy, piano accompanying and jazz studies. She also launched the Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy and Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre. Shenandoah University honored Collins with numerous awards including the Wilkins Award, Distinguished MBA Alumni Award, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, International Appreciation Award and President’s Medal.
Together, Verne and Charlotte Collins have touched the lives of and witnessed more than 3,000 conservatory students earn their degrees.
View more photos from the dedication here.