Eastman’s Summers-Only Master’s Degree in Music Education Offers “The Whole Package”

May 5, 2020

Members of Eastman’s Music Teaching and Learning Faculty  during Summer 2019

Pictured with this story are members of Eastman’s Music Teaching and Learning Faculty

during Summer 2019: top: Alden Snell; center, Mara Culp; bottom, Chris Azzara.

Photographs by Michelle Martorell.


Alden Snell is the advisor for summers-only master’s students at Eastman. He recently asked two recent graduates of the summers only program to reflect on their summer studies at Eastman. Following are comments from Maggie Harrigan, an elementary music teacher in the Boston area, and Marissa Guarriello, a secondary strings teacher near Philadelphia:

AS: What led you to attend Eastman for the summers-only masters degree?

MH: My initial draw to the Eastman masters program was the high-quality faculty members. I was excited about the opportunity to study with some of the best researchers in the field of music education. In addition to being accomplished researchers, the professors are outstanding teachers who share their knowledge and expertise with such humility. It is an honor to study with them. I was also interested in the program because of the ability to complete the degree during the summers. As a teacher, this type of program was ideal since it allowed me to keep my job in Massachusetts during the school year and travel to Rochester during the summer. I could be wholly focused on graduate school during the summer, and wholly focused on my students during the school year. Each summer I came back with new questions, and each fall I started teaching feeling refreshed and full of new ideas!

MG: For me, I was coming from a large, Big Ten school and I wanted a smaller, more focused school for my graduate degree. I am also in a fortunate position where I really love my job and I was not ready to stop teaching to earn a graduate degree. I was investigating top-notch schools with well-known faculty that offered summer programs. I knew I wanted a research-focused master’s degree but in a school that also highly valued high quality music. I also did not want to be taking classes taught by other graduate students—I wanted the full-time faculty to be my professors, which is the case at Eastman.  At my audition and interview, the faculty and students were beyond welcoming and warm. The feelings of stress and competition melted away once I entered the building. I was immediately at home. Once I was accepted, not only did the program work beautifully with my life schedule but the school was accommodating and flexible with my wants and needs as a student while honoring the fact that I was still a practicing teacher. It was the whole package!

Eastman’s Music Teaching and Learning Faculty

AS: What is a favorite memory or two from your experience as a summers-only master’s student?

MH: My favorite memories are definitely centered around the relationships I made during my summers at Eastman. Being in such an intensive program created a strong bond between classmates that lasted beyond the six-week summer session. These friends became more like family as we spent so much time together both in and outside of the classroom. There was certainly a feeling of camaradery—you’re in it together through the good and the really hard parts of the summer! These are friends that I still call when I have questions about teaching or need a new idea in the classroom.

And if I’m sharing favorite memories, I have to include ice cream at Pittsford Dairy… that’s a must on a hot summer day after hours of paper-writing and studying! 

MG: One of my most cherished memories from my time at Eastman was the amount of studying we had to do. Let me explain: I made so many very close friends while I was at Eastman. We were all serious, passionate students who were excited to talk about and debate music education topics. We were generally taking the same or similar classes so we would all study and work together. It was really great to sit and talk, have a coffee, and discuss whatever it was we were working on. Because the summer session goes by so fast, the amount of work is intense so we would work for hours at a time but we were all in it together. It was truly a team effort and experience. Some of my closest friends and colleagues came from my time at Eastman. Little traditions also stemmed from this like eating Stromboli the night before finals while we studied, cornhole on Friday evenings while we debriefed from classes that week, and so on.  The shared working experience was definitely vital to the social experience of the program, but the social experience was just as important as the work!

Chris Azzara and student

AS: What other comments do you have related to the Eastman experience?

MH: I am so thankful for my time at Eastman and would highly recommend the program to anyone who is serious about music teaching and learning. I grew as a teacher, a student, and a musician during my time there. My professors at Eastman did not feed me answers—they taught me to expand my thinking and to ask questions that have continued to help me learn and grow beyond the program itself. If you’re interested in the program, my advice is to go for it! I hope you find the experience as rewarding as I did.

MG: My overall experience was wonderful. I feel as though I met some of my best friends and cherished colleagues at Eastman. I think they gave me many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Additionally, the flexibility of the summer program was perfect for my teaching schedule. I would highly recommend the program to all who are interested! Good luck!

It is not too late to enroll in a music education course this summer! Please contact Alden Snell (asnell@esm.rochester.edu) for additional information about Summer 2020 course offerings and the summers only masters degree in music education at the Eastman School of Music.