FAME Teacher Spotlight – Missy Strong
School System: Mount Laurel Township Schools
Town/City: Mount Laurel
State: New Jersey
Grade Taught: Pre-K through 4th grade; General and Vocal
Education: Bachelor of Music, Philadelphia College of Bible; Master of Arts, Rowan University; Doctor of Musical Arts, Rutgers University
FAME member since: 2012 (Founding Member, Current Vice President)
Classes/Workshops in First Steps or Conversational Solfege:
I’ve taken First Steps, and both levels of Conversational Solfege a few different times at different colleges on the east coast, starting as far back as 2004…but my favorite was the class I took with some colleagues and friends on a cruise ship!
Most powerful aspect of FS/CS:
There is a dual answer here: the most powerful aspect of FS/CS for my students is that it is built around the way they truly learn and it comes from authentic and engaging repertoire that they love. For teachers, the most powerful aspect is that it gives them a systematic, research-based curriculum that they can trust to be excellent and one they can start using on day one of their teaching journey. This is invaluable especially for the young teacher just starting their career.
How has FS/CS changed your teaching?
How hasn’t it changed my teaching?! I have become more invested in the musical growth of my kids, because I know what I can offer them and what they can do and I don’t have to waste time trying to figure it out. I now work towards connecting them to one of the most innate parts of their humanity – their ability to be musical. I believe that this is a God-given gift, and the research bears this out: all humans are musical to some degree. I no longer view my students as either belonging to a group who are musical or those who are not. ALL my students are musical and simply require excellent guidance. It has also clarified and substantiated what I suspected – kids can all feel ownership of their musicality and can truly enjoy good music at a very young age all the way through high school. And it has made me more proud than ever of the job that I chose to do.
How has FS/CS changed your students?
My students have primarily become much more confident in their ability to sing in tune, move competently to the beat, and resonate with the expressive part of music. They are highly engaged and one thing I’ve noticed is that they love the repertoire and are no longer prone to exclaim that it’s “not cool!” With each grade they advance they become more musical. When they leave my classroom at the end of 4th grade they know that even if they never become professional musicians, they will always be a musical person and no one can take that away from them.
What do you want to do in the future with FS/CS?
In my classroom, I am striving to get further each year with Conversational Solfege. I want to challenge myself and my students to do one more unit per grade each year. Outside of the classroom, I work very hard to encourage others to try First Steps and Conversational Solfege. I would love to see these programs become the curriculum in districts all over the States, and even other countries because I believe in them so strongly.
What advice do you have to those just starting out with FS/CS?
If you are only just hearing about First Steps and/or Conversational Solfege and find yourself thinking “Meh, another new thing? How do I know it is worth it to invest time and money into learning it?” I (and many others) can assure you that it is more than worth it. For those who are more new and feeling overwhelmed as you try to figure out how to use the materials, don’t give up! When you feel confused, or all alone in your endeavor, become a FAME member and ask questions on the Forums, take a course with Dr. Feierabend or an Endorsed Teacher Trainer, look for Dr. F when he is presenting at your state or national conventions, watch one of the amazing DVDs , or check out the Feierabend Fundamentals page on Facebook. You are not alone, there are others who can and want to help you. Lastly, remember you are doing something amazing for yourself and your students!
Missy graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible in 1995 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Bachelor of Science in Bible. Her teaching career began in 1995, when she taught general, choral, and instrumental music to students in grades K-8 at a private Christian school. In 1999, she moved to the Mt. Laurel, NJ public schools, where she still has the joy of serving as the Music Specialist for Pre-K through 4th grade general/vocal music.
In 2003, Missy earned the Master of Arts in Music Education with a minor in Vocal Health from Rowan University. In May
of 2012, she earned a Doctorate in Music Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development, from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Her major teachers have included William Berz, David Elliott, John Feierabend, Lili Levinowitz, Allison Reynolds, and Marissa Silverman. From 2004-2009, she worked alongside Dr. Levinowitz as the Senior Research Assistant at the Center for Music and the Young Child, the research and development branch of Music Together, LLC in Princeton, NJ.
For over a decade, Dr. Strong served as the Director of Children’s Music Education at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In her capacity as director she oversaw all aspects of Schola Cantorum, the dedicated music school for children in grades 1-6, as well as the church’s weekly preschool music classes.
She frequently mentors young teachers and consults with teachers, schools, and churches and schools looking to implement music programs for children. Missy has presented several workshops to music educators and has also addressed groups of parents and caregivers of young children regarding the importance of live music-making in the family and the community, a topic that serves as her primary research interest.
Missy and her husband, Jeremy (a composer, pianist, and church organist), enjoy making music together with their four young children, Ethan (cello), Owen (violin), Lorelei (harp), and Jackson (cello).