By Michelle Armstrong
Cathy Benedict's life might be referred to as the sound of music. True, she is not a member of a family of singers who call the Austrian Alps home, but music has always been a major part of her life. Now a professor of music education, Cathy continues to share her passion with others who possess a shared love for the art of noise.
Cathy grew up in Denver, Colorado playing the trombone in school jazz, orchestra, and marching bands. She was also a vocalist. She completed her undergraduate studies in choral conducting, earning Orff certification for teaching. After completing her program, Cathy taught elementary school for one year in Grand Junction, Colorado before pursuing graduate studies. She attended Holy Names College in Oakland, California for her Master's degree in music education.
While later teaching at New York City's Spence School, an independent college-preparatory day school for girls in kindergarten through grade 12, Cathy decided that she would like to earn her doctorate. She remembers that when contemplating in what university she should enroll for her Ed.D., it occurred to her that "the one up the street had a music program." That one was Teachers College. The advice of a colleague who described his studies in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching as "the best thing I ever did" helped her to finalize her decision to apply and attend. She received a second Master's in 1990 in curriculum and teaching and stayed on at TC part-time to complete a doctoral program. Cathy graduated in May 2004.
With Dr. Karen Zumwalt as her advisor, Cathy's dissertation investigated how best to utilize the work of critical theorists to examine national music standards relative to other educational standards. This is of particular interest to her because, she says, she views the status of music education as "an oppressed society." Research experience that she acquired in the Center for Arts Education Research with Dr. Harold Abeles of the Department of Arts and Humanities for the assessment and evaluation of the Bushnell Partners' Arts Education Program stood her in good stead when it came time to pen the culminating document of her graduate student career. She is the also author of several articles and chapters that have been published in edited works and journals.
Dr. John Gilbert, an alumnus of TC, hired Cathy for the tenure track position she has held at New York University since Fall 2004. There she is an assistant professor of undergraduate and graduate courses at the Steinhardt School of Education. She is also the coordinator of undergraduate studies in music education. Her scholarly interests include an interdisciplinary analysis of classroom methodologies to better understand the conceptual similarities teachers share as practitioners in the field of education. "It never would have dawned on me [to study this topic]," Cathy says, crediting TC with stimulating this interest. "I stepped out of the narrow confines of music education and was able to really step back to see implications [within the field of education] for music education. I have a bigger picture. I'm able to think and write papers from a different perspective. Working with Karen [Zumwalt]--that changed my life," she expresses. "I knew when that ‘aha!' life-changing moment occurred." And now, thanks to TC, Cathy has an opportunity to have a similar impact on individuals who understand what difference music can make in our lives.