Featured Alum: Laura Cortright

Laura Cortright graduated in 2018 with majors in Music and Education with a minor in Education.  She is currently a choir teacher for Oconto Middle/High School.

When did you graduate? May 2018

What did you major/minor in? Majors: Music, Education; Minor: Education

What do you do now? Choir Teacher for Oconto Middle/High School

Why did you decide to major in Music and Education?  In high school, I felt I was a very good flute player, but I did not know how to sing well. Gosh, that frustrated me! I practiced so often, and I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong – So, I decided to go to college to figure it out and then to teach others to sing. I figured that I would be a great teacher, because once I got past my own hurdles, I could help my students do the same. After all, I always wanted a choir teacher who understood my struggles, but usually those who pursue music education are ones with natural gifts. I wanted to become the teacher who I wanted to have.

The trick was just getting there.

It was certainly difficult…but I did it. Of course I am still learning as a singer, as all musicians are: We can never “master” our craft. However, especially with the help of Courtney Sherman, I was able to conquer my beast. I can sing well now, with healthy technique and a solid range. Because of my journey, I am a firm believer that anyone can sing, if they have the patience and commitment to get there. After all, I am the proof. Now, when I teach my students, I have the personal experience to be able to help them get past their specific hurdles.

Then, once I entered college, I met a boy. He, too, was going for Music Education, albeit instrumental instead of choral. Things got serious pretty quickly between us (we are now happily engaged), and I thought it would be intelligent to have a back-up plan to teaching choir. The odds of us both getting music teaching jobs in close proximity right out of college seemed pretty slim. So, I set out to expand my education: I both majored and minored in Education so that I could be triple certified in teaching All Ages General Music, All Ages Choral Music, and Ages 6-12/13 General Education.

After beginning my first year of teaching, I do know that my heart still lies in being a choir teacher (I was uncertain for awhile – those elementary kiddos are absolutely adorable). However, I am still thankful that I took the route I did. Even though I am not teaching in a general elementary classroom, the education my triple certification provided now gives me a wider knowledge of education as a whole. I can understand the general classroom teacher’s plight, which helps with professional relationships, and I feel better prepared to help the whole student.

What academic experience or accomplishment are you most proud of?  In order to receive my triple certification, I needed to take a lot of classes. Since the education minor at UWGB generally focuses on older students (those who take the minor will teach a specific subject, such as science, math, or music) and the education major focuses on younger students (those who take the major will teach in elementary or middle schools, in a general classroom), there was not much crossover. Already, as a music major, I was projected to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in five years – I did not want to spend any more time than that to receive what is usually advertised as a “four-year degree.”

So, I mapped out my plan, and for a few semesters I took 19-23 credits by double enrolling in classes at UWGB and online classes at NWTC. It was hard, and online classes were not my forte…but I did it! I graduated in five years with my three certifications.

What is an important goal or accomplishment you are currently working on? Currently, I am getting my students ready for our Spring Concert. I am so excited for this! Being a smaller school, kids in Oconto have never had their own musical. They have plays, and if they wish they can audition at Abrams Community Theatre, which is close by – but they have never worked on a musical production as a school. Because of that, I want this concert to be as close to that experience as possible. Our opening and closing numbers will be pieces from “The Greatest Showman”, they will feature all of my choirs, and they will be choreographed and made to be as musical-like as possible. Of course, the show will include fabulous art pieces in addition, from great composers. But the biggest project is figuring out how to get all of my choirs – in separate buildings – to work together to create one great show (pun intended). I’m so excited! And my kids are, too.

What do you do for fun?  For fun, I do yoga (especially with my partner in crime at Oconto, McKenna Van Der Leest, who is another UW-GB grad), read, paint, garden, play the flute or guitar, sing, plan my wedding, and hang out with my friends at Life Church. Clearly, I am a busy-body. I love being outside and in the sun, no matter the season, because there’s always something to do as long as you dress for the weather! Although I don’t yet have a pet, I constantly dream about having a dog, and I live vicariously through my students who show me pictures of their various animals.

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