Meet ETM's New Program Director: Colleen Stewart
“I truly love the art of schooling and the work of building excellent, engaging schools.”
What is your background, and what brought you to Education Through Music?
I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, California, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The public schools I attended and the surrounding community had robust music education programming. By the end of elementary school, I was already engaged in every music program at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and began teaching music in private and charter schools in rural Minnesota and Southwest Florida.
Moving to New York City had been a long-time dream and I finally made the move in 2009 where I joined the team at Success Academy Charter Schools. I founded the music program at Success in one of their first schools in Harlem. I eventually became an assistant principal and then a founding principal at Success before moving to their central office to oversee all of the arts and athletics programs.
I truly love the art of schooling and the work of building excellent, engaging schools. I wanted to be able to continue doing that work while returning to my first love: music. Education Through Music was my opportunity to do just that! In July, I joined the team as the Director of Programs and I am excited about the incredible work we have in front of us this year!
What music teacher has made a difference in your life?
I have been fortunate to have so many amazing music teachers in my life, all of whom have played important roles in creating the educator and person that I am today. But I think the three teachers most responsible for setting me on my path were my amazing high school choir and band teachers: Nathan Earp, Larry McCaghy and Paul Wigley.
All three teachers had the special gift of building a powerful culture. By the time I had the great fortune of entering their classrooms, all three teachers were near the end of life-long careers as music educators, including more than 30 years in the same school. I was so struck by the obvious love and passion they had for their jobs, and knew, even at 15 years old, that loving the work you do every day over an entire career was an important key to a happy life. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a music teacher. I credit all three of them for setting me on the path that I am still on today.
As the new Director of Programs, what are the key goals you would like to accomplish in the long-term?
- To provide every child in New York City access to a high-quality and sustainable school music program!
- To expand our partnerships to high schools in New York City to continue our mission of equity and access for all.
- To develop a replicable music teacher training model that can support the development of successful music programs nationwide.
When you aren’t at work, what are your other passions in life?
Besides music and schools, my two great other loves in life are animals and musical theater, so that is where I devote most of my time outside of work. I am a regular volunteer at the ASPCA Adoption Center and an animal advocate (also a vegan). I continue to feed my love for musical theater by seeing as much theater as I can and performing in at least one show a year. Recent favorite roles that I played include Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray and Emma Goldman in Ragtime.