Teacher Feature: Hilary N.

Meet Hilary! Some of you have been lucky enough to work with her as a private instructor and After-School Program teacher, but we’re also excited to announce her as our new in-school Oakridge music teacher. As many of you know, Molly’s Music runs the entire music program at Oakridge Private School, and we’re very proud to watch our teachers accomplish great things with the wonderful students there. Hilary has an extensive musical and teaching background (not to mention a sparkly personality we know the Oakridge families will love), and we can’t wait to watch both the Oakridge kids and Hilary’s private students grow.

MM: What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you been playing them?

HN: I can play piano and trumpet. My mother put me in piano lessons very young, and I continued those until junior high, when I started playing trumpet. I played trumpet all the way through college on scholarship, and revisited piano by taking lessons at an older age.

MM: I know you’ve had a lot of classroom experience. Tell me about that. What did you teach? How does that differ from working with students one on one? 

HN: After college I went immediately into teaching full time at an Elementary school. It was so amazing and I definitely realized I found my calling. It was so fun getting to teach grades kindergarten through fifth grade how to love music, and I always incorporated my instrumental background by having them play percussion instruments of all kinds and recorders. I also directed an after-school choir program and that was actually the first time I had taught choir. It differs from teaching one on one because you have to have large-group-management skills. You have to keep the attention of lots of kids instead of one, and somehow still get your point across and hope they retain it.

MM: You just moved! How has that been? 

HN: Wow, it’s been an adventure for sure! Moving from Oklahoma to California is a little bit of a culture shock. The typical things to get used to is cost of living and traffic. But I have definitely enjoyed the weather and the sunshine. You learn a lot about yourself when you uproot and take chances is a new environment.

MM: What are some of your favorite instruments, and why?

HN: Obviously the trumpet is one I’m partial to, because I play it. One of my favorite instruments I have never played is the cello. There’s something about the sound that just gives me goosebumps. I also love listening to the piano if I can’t play it because you can do so much with it.

MM: Do you have any current musical projects?

HN: The only thing I have going on right now is continuing my musical education by learning guitar and ukulele. I love music and always look forward to learning more of it.

MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?

HN: Practice takes practice! I practice small chunks at a time until I’m more comfortable with them and then put them all together. I also believe in extensive warm-ups. I think warm ups always make our foundation stay strong so we can constantly build on them. I always tell my kids as we go, okay this warm-up we’re doing, or see how I break this section up before we play the whole thing? This is how you practice on your own when I’m not here. You have to teach kids how to practice well or else they’ll end up practicing the wrong thing and develop bad habits.

MM: What genres are you most comfortable in, and what would you say your favorite vocal genre is?

HN: You know, I was taught by a lot of classical teachers so I definitely love teaching the classical forms in voice or any instruments I use. I also enjoy musicals, jazz, and pop music and really enjoy teaching in most realms.

MM: What are your top goals, music or otherwise?

HN: I guess my number one goal is to always love what I’m doing. They say work isn’t work if you love it, and I definitely strive to always enjoy what I’m doing and do my best. Other goals would be furthering my education and getting certified to teach Orff instruments, becoming a mom, and loving life.

MM: If you were stranded on an island and could only have one album with you, what would it be?

HN: Man that is a tough question but I think I would choose Eric Whitacre’s “Cloudburst” album. It has so many complexities I think it would keep me entertained for a while.

MM: Anything else you want to add?

HN: I definitely love music and I love to teach so I think I’m pretty lucky to be able to have a career like this. I just hope to impart on my students an overall appreciate for all genres of music because you miss out on so much confined to one area.

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