Master of Arts in Teaching, 2010
School of Education
September 1, 2009
Gifted Composer Intrigued by the Study of Creativity
Tom Kahelin is currently enrolled in UC Irvine’s Master of Arts in Teaching degree program, having just obtained his Single Subject Credential in Music. For him, becoming a music teacher was an inevitable process and a convergence of creativity.
Tom earned his Bachelor of Music degree in composition from the University of Southern California where he studied with National Medal of Arts winner Morten Lauridsen, and James Hopkins, and Robert Linn. He won the inaugural Hans J. Salter composition prize and was inducted into the National Music Honor Society Pi Kappa Lambda. He has composed music for a wide variety of ensembles, as well as created acclaimed music for the stage and video games. He also has designed and implemented sonic atmospheres for theme parks.
Tom’s interest in teaching developed after a series of happy coincidences, as he describes:
Several years ago, I was involved in an incredible event, reuniting 16 years of former high school band students with their original director. At that reunion I discovered several of my classmates had gone into music education. Many of them broached the idea of commissioning me to write suitable pieces for their students. Since then I have written several pieces for school bands, each time visiting the students to talk about the music and how I compose. With each visit, I became more attracted to teaching. I was self-publishing my works then and always visited schools that purchased my pieces to talk with students. During this time, I also became active in the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, completing an apprentice performance adjudicator program, which qualified me to judge student performances throughout southern California. Many of my colleagues in SCSBOA encouraged me to consider a credential program, noting that as a composer, I bring unique creativity to the classroom.
Tom employed that unique creativity in all of his classes in the credential program at UCI. Throughout the Department of Education, he developed a reputation for thinking outside the box in class presentations and projects. That same creativity finds a welcome home in his teaching philosophy as well:
As a composer, I have a variety of strategies when I write a piece. You could call it “a bag of tricks” or “technique” or “craft”. In the end, what I strive for is a sense of inevitability. The same thing applies to teaching. When I design a lesson, I am employing a combination of the countless valuable strategies I’ve learned at UCI. I am considering my students’ learning from different perspectives, on different levels, in novel and engaging ways. Like composing, when I am teaching, I am creating something that exists in real time. Therefore, I strive for a similar sense of inevitability in the classroom as well, and for that purpose gladly lend my creativity. Each teacher and student has this creative potential and can develop it to make learning more meaningful.
While at UCI, Tom’s concert band piece Western Horizons was commercially published worldwide by Alfred Publishing. Next year, Alfred will also be releasing Carolan’s Concerto, written for his students in the Symphonic Orchestra during his student teaching experience at Venado Middle School in Irvine. From his work at UCI, Tom has become intrigued by the study of creativity itself and plans to continue conducting further research on the subject.