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Music Education

Jumpstarting careers with Ravinia collaboration

When Ravinia, the oldest outdoor music festival in the U.S., decided to expand its Sistema Ravinia instrumental music program to underserved youths in Lake County, they turned to Lake Forest College for help.

“Initially, we wanted help to recruit instructors,” said Christine Taylor, Ravinia’s director of the Reach*Teach*Play education program. But after meeting with Assistant Professor of Music Scott Edgar—whose area of research centers on how music affects people both socially and emotionally—a true partnership has blossomed. 

“We realized pretty quickly that not only could we establish a place to potentially recruit instructors for our program in the future, but we could develop a partnership with the College because of its music education program,” she said.

Enter Nate Rhodes ’09, who received his master’s of arts in teaching in music education in 2017. Ravinia hired Rhodes as a cello specialist for the Sistema Ravinia program. In addition to the great amount of field experience he received as part of his music education major, this practical field work allowed Rhodes to practice teaching in the real world.

“The College’s music education program, in general, has been an amazing experience for me,” Rhodes said, “and the Sistema Ravinia program has been a fantastic addition to my work experience and resumé.”

Preparing his own lesson plans and seeing firsthand what about his teaching style is effective “has been huge for my development as a teacher,” Rhodes said. Sistema Ravinia fosters social development though exceptional music education for underserved third through eighth grade students in Lake County and Chicago public schools.

It’s long been a goal of the College to develop a more robust relationship with Ravinia.

“The interactions between Sistema Ravinia and and the music education program have been a natural fit,” Edgar said. He continues to work with the program’s professional musicians to help them become better teachers.

“Their musical expertise was already well-established, however they needed help with the pedagogical side,” Edgar said. “My experiences working with the Sistema Ravinia teachers were nothing but positive. The teachers are curious to help their students musically as well as socially and emotionally.” 

Social emotional learning in music education is one of Edgar’s specializations. “It is at the heart of everything we’re doing,” he said. 

Christine Taylor and Reach*Teach*Play Associate Director Isaac Sinnett have opened up their doors and been very receptive to the collaborations between their organization and Lake Forest College, Edgar said. 

Through Lake Forest’s partnership with Ravinia, Rhodes is receiving “the most realistic field work experience possible,” Edgar said. “He is teaching before he has graduated. This shows that, even though we’re a relatively young music education program, we’re doing good work here.”