Fulbright Award Helps Non-Traditional Student Add Rhythm to Students’ Lives
UC’s Angela Carota is a student to note. As a non-traditional student,
the music education major is bucking the national norms for students
who receive prestigious Fulbright grants, most of whom are
traditional-aged students under 30.
Angela Carota, a CCM graduate student, has received a Fulbright award to travel to Austria to study music education philosophy.
Although it may seem a world away, Carota’s path from study hall to the gilded halls of academia is the reason she became a teacher in the first place: To share music with others, especially with those for whom it may feel just out of reach.
As a high school student in northern Kentucky, she felt something was missing. A piano player since age 6, the school halls seemed a little too quiet without the melodious sounds that had filled her world since childhood.
“High school was difficult for me because there wasn’t really music in my school, and I grew up and wanted to be the music teacher I wished I’d had,” says Carota. “I wanted to pursue music education and bring that to the kids who did not have access to it.”
In pursuit of that goal, Carota has made a career of sharing her passion for music through teaching. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2000, Carota spent four years teaching general music for grades K-8 in Cincinnati Public Schools. After a year in Florida, she came back to her hometown and taught music and choir in Boone County, Kentucky.
When it came time to earn her master’s degree, Carota wanted to pursue a degree that would “really mean something.” So, she decided to enroll full time in UC’s College-Conservatory of Music to study music education.
“Growing up in the Cincinnati area, CCM has always been the music school in the area,” Carota says. “It’s always been appealing to me as an institution that has a certain amount of prestige, something that was always intriguing.”
Before long, she began hearing about the Fulbright grant program and saw an opportunity to fulfill a dream she’d long had as a music educator. Carota had been interested in Orff Schulwerk, a music education philosophy developed by composer Carl Orff, since taking a CCM summer course on the program in 2003. The philosophy presents a more organic method of teaching music and may involve movement, singing, children’s literature and instruments – xylophones, drums and recorders – to engage young students in classroom studies. Carota says it’s an approach she regularly utilizes in her teaching.
Fulbright winner Angela Carota, 32, has played piano since age 6 and taught music to students of all ages for the past nine years.
“It brings the music down to the child’s level so that every child is able to participate in the making of music,” Carota says. “It brings in nature and a lot of things that are relevant to a child’s life. It looks many, many different ways, there’s not really one way to use the philosophy. It’s more of a guiding principle for teachers.”
Carota says she wanted to go to the “hotbed” of Orff’s philosophy, the place it was founded and developed: Salzburg, Austria. There, Carota will spend a year at the Orff Institute, delving into the details of the composer’s school of thought on music education.
Among such a distinguished group, Carota finds herself in even rarer company – according to James Lawrence, public affairs officer with the U.S. Department of State's Office of Academic Exchange Programs, approximately 90 percent of Fulbright winners this year are under 30.
As Lawrence points out, however, that number doesn't take into account the fact that certain fields will often attract older applicants.
“There is no typical path to a Fulbright, but student program applicants generally tend to be under 30,” Lawrence says. “With more students heading straight from their undergrad programs to graduate school, combined with the fact that we are now offering more Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grants that do not require a research component, we are seeing an increase in younger applicants.”
Though not ruling out doctoral work in the future, Carota plans to return to the classroom – a place that not only feels like “home,” but where she continues to be excited by her students’ progress.
“The biggest high I get from teaching is showing students who maybe didn’t know they were talented that they are and introducing things to them that they didn’t know they were good at,” Carota says. “I like finding what I call the ‘closet musicians’ – those kids playing music in their churches and basements – and giving them some direction. It’s very exciting to me to draw that out of these students.”