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ASU professor named Arizona Music Educator of the Year

Margaret Schmidt, professor of music learning and teaching in Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, was recently named the Music Educator of the Year by the Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA). Schmidt was presented the award at the 2022 Conference, “Going Back to Our Future.”

Margaret Schmidt, professor of music learning and teaching.

“We are so proud of Professor Marg Schmidt and honored that she has been recognized by AMEA as the Music Educator of the Year,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “Professor Schmidt has been an exemplary faculty member in every way — from her dedication and commitment to teaching, to her thoughtful and impactful scholarship and her steadfast service to our students, our school and her profession. She has made a significant difference in the lives of so many people.”

The award is the highest honor bestowed by AMEA and “personifies the goals and visions of AMEA, and exemplifies excellence in teaching, leadership and advocacy for music and arts education in Arizona.”

“It’s an honor to have been nominated and then to be the recipient of this award,” Schmidt said. “I was completely surprised.”

Schmidt, a music education teacher for 48 years, has been a member of the National Association for Music Education since 1974 and a member of AMEA, the state affiliate, since 2001.

“Marg is a teacher — a teacher of teachers — who loves teaching and music, and teachers and kids,” said Sandra Stauffer, senior associate dean and professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

Schmidt was nominated by several colleagues, former and present students, and music educators throughout Arizona.

“Marg has had a significant impact on music education in the state of Arizona and beyond and is the mainstay of string music education at ASU,” Stauffer said.

Schmidt joined the ASU music education faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. She is the liaison between the School of Music, Dance and Theatre’s music learning and teaching program and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, organizing student teachers’ placements and the student teaching seminar, and mentoring doctoral students who observe student teachers as part of their education. Her former students are teaching throughout Arizona and at colleges and universities across the nation.

“Marg listens, empathizes and helps,” Stauffer said. “She visits dozens of schools every year and observes, mentors and guides. She also gives clinics, guest conducts and adjudicates.”

Schmidt said her career path in music education began at her high school in Madison, Wisconsin, when her orchestra director taught her to play cello so she could play with the junior high orchestra to help the students individually and during practices.

“After that initial introduction into teaching, I decided to major in music education,” said Schmidt. “Once I started student teaching, I decided that teaching is what I really love to do.”

She is the founding and current director of the ASU String Project, which offers low-cost, high-quality instruction on orchestral stringed instruments. The ASU String Project, part of a national strings program, was founded in 2002.

The project supports students in existing public school string programs and provides string education to children and young people enrolled in schools without string programs. The project often serves low-income families and provides scholarships and reduced costs for participants to receive lessons and participate in Saturday classes that Schmidt organizes and supervises. She also recruits and mentors teachers from among ASU string students. The project has served hundreds of children and young people.

Schmidt also teaches or advises the music string classes for undergraduate and graduate students, and SHE is teaching faculty for the music learning and teaching summer music institute and helps plan the classes and recruit instructors and students.

In addition, Schmidt has served as an assistant director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre (and former School of Music) for the past eight years.

“It’s one level removed from teaching, but it's definitely been work that I have enjoyed,” Schmidt said. “When you can make someone's day better, it's a really good feeling. To help students who have a problem or help a faculty member work out a challenge with a student is so rewarding.”

Though her primary passion is teaching, Schmidt also considers herself an amateur violinist. She has played the violin for more than 60 years and also plays viola and cello. She is part of a string quartet with three retired public school teachers who perform for local community clubs.

When she came to Arizona, Schmidt learned mariachi music and has played in the ASU Mariachi Ensemble and championed the ensemble through several leadership transitions. Several teachers now include mariachi in their school programs due to her guidance. 

Schmidt is considered one of the leading researchers on preparing future teachers and string pedagogy in the nation. She has written research articles and book chapters; edited one book and translated another on string bowing from French; presented clinics and workshops at state, national and international conferences; served on editorial boards, conference committees and professional organizations; and has written reviews and summaries of string literature. Since 2003, Schmidt has been the reviews editor for the “American String Teacher.”

Schmidt will be retiring from ASU at the end of the semester and plans to continue using her teaching skills in adult literacy and with foster children.

“We have a very strong program and very strong faculty here at ASU,” Schmidt said. “I hope that the program can continue to grow and continue to be what I think is a leader in the country in helping people learn about music learning and teaching.”

To continue Schmidt’s legacy for music educators at ASU, a newly endowed scholarship, the Margaret Emily Schmidt Scholarship in Music Learning and Teaching, has been created in her honor. The scholarship will provide an undergraduate or graduate student studying music learning and teaching with funding to realize their dreams and make a difference in the lives of their students and communities.

The School of Music, Dance and Theatre encourages all former students who were touched by Schmidt’s teaching and leadership to consider donating to this scholarship.

“Marg is one of the most humble and modest people that I know,” said Scott Glasser, doctoral student and teaching assistant in music learning and teaching. “She consistently puts the success of others ahead of any personal accolade because she believes that her work is about assisting others in realizing their dreams and achieving their goals.”

“Marg is a tireless advocate for teachers and students,” Stauffer said.  “Wherever there are music teachers, Marg has been there doing whatever she can to support them.”

lamacdon@asu.edu