When Hilary Vrooman was a student at Peabody, Steven Baxter (who went on to serve as dean of the Conservatory and recently retired as dean of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory), her instructor in Instrumental Music Education at the time, passed along a tidbit that has stuck with her: “He said, ‘Busy hands are happy hands,'” she recalls. These words “ultimately framed how I use my time during instruction,” Vrooman says. “And I find myself using the quote all the time with other teachers.”
As both a music educator and a teacher of teachers, Vrooman holds to the belief that when “students are engaged in the process, they learn much more than when they’re sitting around listening to someone talk about it.”
Vrooman, who became president of the Peabody Chapter of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association in June 2008, recently completed a three-year assignment as a consulting teacher for the Montgomery County School System in Maryland, following more than a decade as a middle school band and orchestra teacher. Her position took her to schools throughout the region to observe, mentor, and evaluate teachers.
Vrooman studied clarinet at Peabody Preparatory during high school and went on to earn both a bachelor’s in Music Education and a performer’s certificate in 1990. She received a master’s in Music Education from the University of Michigan.
While at Peabody, Vrooman represented students at many alumni functions. “Now that I’m on the alumni side, I know how to ask students about their concerns,” she says. “It’s important to identify ways to support students and, if needed, offer them support in their communications with administrators,” she says. At the same time, she continues to be influenced by Peabody. Recently she heard Director Jeffrey Sharkey describe his vision of the institution as “a beacon of creativity.”
“When I heard Jeff say that, I began to think about how I can apply it to [middle schoolers]. How do I help kids create, not just re-create a performance, but make something new… give them the freedom to become their own composers?”