BYU grad student wins national music award


She plays the guitar, cello, bagpipes, viola, marimba and myriad other instruments, but Christie Sowby’s heart has always belonged to “the black-and-whites.” Now it seems that loyalty is paying off.

Sowby, a master’s student of piano performance, recently won the Studio Teacher Fellowship Award from the Music Teacher’s National Association.

“I have never loved anything more, I think, than piano … Um, besides my husband!” Sowby said.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Christie Sowby” align=”alignright” width=”152″][/media-credit]
Grad student Christie Sowby recently won the Student Teacher Fellowship Award for her work with Piano Students.
Sowby has always been a music lover. She began playing piano at age seven and hasn’t stopped since. She said when it came time to choose a major, music was the only choice for her. In 2009 she graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance.

At 25, she’s already quite the accomplished educator. In 2010 she was nationally certified with the Music Teacher’s National Association as s music teacher. In that same year she was named the Utah Music Teacher Association’s Student Teacher of the Year. She currently teaches 17 students in her home-based studio and this summer she bought her own grand piano. Sowby’s love for piano teaching is apparent in everything she does — it’s no wonder MTNA chose her to be the recipient of their Studio Teacher Fellowship Award.

According to the MTNA website, the award is presented once annually to “the candidate who most clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to the music teaching profession.” To show their merits, candidates provide the MTNA with letters of recommendation, transcripts and portfolios, video recordings of their teaching process and also evidence of innovations in teaching methods. The most qualified candidate receives a $3,000 grant to help them improve their studio.

Sowby is passionate about teaching and goes above and beyond to ensure her students receive the best education possible. She said that, much like athletes do with game footage, she records her lessons and watches them later to improve her teaching skills.

Beyond helping her students perform well in private, Sowby goes the extra mile to help students succeed in recitals and other performances. In the course of her life, Sowby has recognized that sometimes fear and other variables cause students to choke during performances. To solve this problem, Sowby spends time working with sports psychologist and BYU graduate Craig Manning, discussing the psychology of musical performance. Sowby said she strives to take these discussions and translate that knowledge to the world of music.

Sowby’s students and their parents recognize the quality her hard work brings to her teaching.

American Fork resident Chantel Gunther has  Sowby teach her children, and said her children enjoy their time with the young teacher. She said the experience is always positive and uplifting. Sowby has taught four of the seven Gunther children and said they are all different. Some are natural musicians and others haven’t quite got the attention span to sit for an hour, but Sowby makes sure each student’s needs are met.

“The thing I like about her most is she teaches each kid to their skill and interest level,” Gunther said.

Gunther said her children learn a lot more than just how to play the piano, they learn to be confident and to appreciate the beauty of the music. For the Gunthers, Sowby is more than piano teacher — she’s practically family.

“There are certain people that build your family and she’s one of those,” Gunther said.

This dedication is as much a part of her learning process as it is her teaching process. Richard Anderson, associate professor of music and Christie’s undergraduate piano instructor, said Christie was a dedicated student. During her time as an undergrad, he said, Sowby was head of BYU’s MTNA student chapter and worked diligently to bring recognition to the university.

“Christie was a great student,” Anderson said. “She was dedicated; she was hard-working. In all of her lessons and classes she went the extra mile.”

Sowby recognizes that her teachers were instrumental in her accomplishment. In her humble way she attributes her knowledge and current success, in large part, to her BYU professors.

“I really think they’re the ones that helped me win this, because they’ve taught me everything I know about piano, pedagogy — piano teaching,” Sowby said. “I didn’t know a lot about how to teach before I came to college so I feel like I’m learning from really well-seasoned teachers. They’ve been able to really guide me a lot through the process.”

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