Lakeland - Schnier

Recently, Rachel Ware Carlton, DMA., program director for Lakeland’s Summer Graduate Music program, interviewed 2019 Master of Music in Music Education – Kodály Emphasis graduate Allison Schnier. Learn more about Alli’s time in the MM program, her research in Social Emotional Learning for music educators and insights into applying SEL concepts while teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic.


Where are you from?

I’m originally from SE Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee. I grew up in this area, went to Iowa for my undergrad, then returned to this area to student teach and begin my career.

Where have you completed your education, and what were your degrees?

I received my BA in Music from Luther College (Decorah, IA) in 2012, and my MM in Music Education with Kodály Emphasis from Silver Lake College (Manitowoc, WI) in 2019. I am also finishing my practicum for my Social-Emotional and Character Development certification through Rutgers University and am expecting to finish that in January 2021.

Where do you currently teach? What grade levels?

I’m currently in my 7th year of teaching. This will be my 3rd year at my current position at Burleigh Elementary in the Elmbrook School District. During the average school year, I teach Kindergarten through 5th grade general music and direct an after-school choir open to 4th and 5th graders. During this pandemic, I am teaching face-to-face with a cohorted group of 1st graders, and I’m only working with the 1st graders this year. I lead them through their live music classes, and their pre-recorded PE, Art, and Library lessons. And I pre-record lessons for the grades I am not cohorted with so they can be delivered by the other specialists in the building.

What caused you to pursue a career in music education?

Unsurprisingly, music was always my favorite subject in school! As I grew up, I was also able to be very active in a local children’s choir. I was inspired by all my music teachers, but especially by my children’s choir director who was a Kodály inspired educator and took us to participate in OAKE choirs each year. It was after one of these honor choir experiences that I knew I wanted to work with other kids so they could have musical opportunities like that.

Kodály program

Why did you choose to pursue your Master of Music in Music Education – Kodály Emphasis degree?

Like I mentioned before, my children’s choir director was Kodály certified and I attribute much of my musical success, especially my musical literacy, to the foundation provided from this Kodály upbringing. I knew this going into student teaching and specifically sought out a Kodály certified cooperating teacher who encouraged me to get my Kodály certification through Silver Lake so that I could work with Sr. Lorna Zemke and Dr. John Feierabend. She also introduced me to our local WI Kodaly chapter- AWAKE (Assoc. of WI-Area Kodály Educators).

What was the best part of the program?

I don’t know that I can pick just one! I’d say one of the best parts of the program was getting to work with the incredible faculty. They’re so knowledgeable and truly experts in their fields and you get to know them well and work closely with them. The other best part of the program was the camaraderie and community centered around those of us enrolled in the program. My cohort and friends from other cohorts stayed in contact throughout the school year and still do now even though we’ve finished the program. They are not only great resources, but great friends, too!

What was the most challenging?

The two weeks of the program can be rigorous and intense, but is totally worth it! It was a great fit for my situation to be able to do the bulk of my Kodály certification and Master’s degree throughout the summer, rather than during the school year.

What was the most surprising?

I was most surprised at the fact that this amazing program was based in a small town in Wisconsin. I figured that I’d need to travel to a big university or a big city to get a chance to study in a program like this, with such incredible faculty and high quality courses. But it was so accessible, practically in my own backyard!

Would you recommend other music teachers to continue their study with this program which is now at Lakeland University? If so, why?

Absolutely! The location may have changed slightly, but the heart of the program is still the same. There’s still an incredible faculty to work with, and now there’s even more diverse courses to enroll in!

Capstone Project

What did you do your Capstone Project on, and why?

My capstone project was centered around Social and Emotional Learning. I have had the opportunity to work in several different districts throughout SE Wisconsin and I had noticed certain life skills and traits that my students were universally struggling with, like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Through some PD at my school, I was first introduced to SEL, and I decided I wanted to know more about it and, specifically, how it would look and function within my general music classes. So all three of the prongs of my Capstone Project revolve around SEL. I focused on the current perspective of the development of Social-Emotional Learning, the pedagogy behind the successful implementation of Social-Emotional Learning in general education settings and specifically in music education, and finally, I created a folk song collection and series of lesson plans that would be used to integrate SEL into my current general music curriculum.

How has this research impacted your own teaching?

The research I’ve learned from my Capstone project has inspired me to get my certification in Social-Emotional Learning and Character Development. The research I’ve done through this course and through my Capstone has completely changed the way I teach. Integrating SEL skills and traits into my general music instruction has made a really positive difference in the logistics and management of my classes. The positive relationships between myself and my students, and amongst the students themselves, have been strengthened, and the students are growing and developing those life skills that were missing before.

Where have you/will you present this research?

I was able to present my research in a virtual workshop for AWAKE on August 15th, 2020, and in a virtual session for the WMEA virtual conference on October 28th, 2020. I have also shared my work in two different episodes (#71 and #99) of The Anacrusic Podcast by Anne Mileski. I hope to continue sharing what I’ve researched at virtual and in-person workshops in the future, and I’m currently developing lesson plans and other resources for integrating SEL traits and skills into general music lessons, and hope to publish someday soon!


What has been the greatest challenge to you in supporting the social-emotional needs of your students due to the pandemic?

I strive to have an abundance of patience when working with my students. When I feel frustrated with certain situations or behaviors, I remind myself of our circumstances, I take a breath, and then I proceed.. Sometimes that involves abandoning our musical content and focusing solely on the SEL skill that needs to be practiced. Sometimes it involves moving past the situation and readdressing it at a later time. Sometimes it is somewhere in between.

Based on your research and your experience, do you have any advice for other teachers that may be helpful in supporting the social-emotional growth of their students through music education during the time of COVID-19?

I’d suggest for teachers to start with themselves by really taking care of their own social and emotional needs, especially with the exceptionally stressful circumstances of the teaching during a pandemic. Fulfilling our own needs, and understanding our own social and emotional strengths and areas for growth is a huge first step. Next, I’d recommend focusing on creating a very caring community within their classrooms, whether that is a virtual classroom, pushing into a general education classroom, or within their own music classrooms. This can be achieved through adjusting teacher instructional practices in ways that encourage collaboration and vulnerability among their students. And from there, specific social and emotional skills can be taught. But the most important part is to care and love ourselves and our students.

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