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We Are the Music

Mandi Schlegel has a vision. She envisions making the world a better place by sharing music to more people. 

health and well-being participantsAgainst the backdrop of trauma caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, school shootings and social unrest, Schlegel, Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music Education at the University of South Carolina, sees an even greater need for hope, positivity and support. She believes music offers a unique pathway to bring people together.

As a music educator, she recognizes musicians, teachers and students who find a balance mentally, physically and spiritually are happier people and more accomplished in their field. 

In June, Schlegel gathered a team of music education experts to help music educators learn how to guide and lead community conversations about the value and benefits of music to students, their schools and communities.  

“Anyone in music needs to be healthy and well enough to get music to other people,” says Schlegel. “We assembled a team of music teachers and leaders who make the world better and have ensured more people can make excellent music, while honoring and fostering identity, belonging and agency.” 

Schlegel enlisted the help of well-known music educator Scott Edgar to share the value of health and well-being in music.  

Seen as one of the foremost authorities about health and well-being in music education, Edgar is the author of Music Education and Social-Emotional Learning: The Heart of Teaching Music. He is convinced social learning and music education, known as Social Emotional Learning (SEL), maximizes learning in all music contexts, while supporting an individual’s social and emotional growth. Edgar believes the relationship between music teacher and students is special.

“When I was a K-12 teacher working with students from 5th grade through 12th grade, we developed a relationship. We developed trust,” says Edgar. “As much as I adore my social worker and counselor colleagues, students often don’t feel comfortable going to them. They come to us: music educators.” 

In addition to Edgar, the course was led by other leaders in the music field, including Mary Luehrsen, Yorel Lashley, Alysia Lee, Franklin Willis, Darlene Machacon, Jared Cassedy, Bobby Olson, Narwhals and Waterfalls, and Bob Morrison. School of Music faculty members Hassan Anderson, Wendy Valerio and Jabarie Glass took part in the workshop. 

Schlegel is in awe of the team she has assembled and energized by the support she has received. 

The hope that we can somehow present the efforts, contexts and realizations of social-emotional learning as a means of creating teaching and learning spaces that ultimately gets more people, involved in more music, for more life, is a perpetual dream.

— Mandi Schlegel, Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music Education 

“I think one of the things that makes this course really, really special is who is here,” Schlegel says. “There are masters and doctoral students, and public-school teachers. But what’s unique is which university faculty are taking part. We have faculty from music teacher education, applied faculty members and folks from the conducting division. The fact that we've got this diverse faculty pool who share this common vision is special. I think it’s one of the things that makes the School of Music at USC singular and profound.” 

Derrick Snead, currently a School of Music doctoral student and former public-school teacher, is grateful for the connections he has made during the course and understands too well the challenges of music teachers.  

Prior to coming to UofSC, he spent 11 years as a high school band director at a predominantly black, low-income public school in Savannah, GA. He says the course emphasizes the need for music educators to reflect of previous accomplishments, efforts and challenges as a catalyst to evolve. 

“Historically many of us ignore our emotional state of mind. We’re so driven to graduate, make money and live a good life, we often neglect how we feel,” says Snead. “This course is helping me realize that emotional balance is just as important. We can preach education. We can preach making money and all these things that we chase after. That's fine, but along the way we must take the time to grow emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually.” 

He says the experience has taught him that it’s essential to care for himself mentally, physically and spiritually to impart better information, knowledge and expertise to his students.  

Workshop participant Julia Turner is also a School of Music graduate student, concentrating in early childhood and elementary education. Turner says the course has allowed her time to reflect on her approach to her work as an elementary school teacher. She plans to use the pillar of identity to help her students recognize the concept that they are individuals. 

“A lot of what I do in my classroom really revolves around having my students have their voices heard,” says Turner. “I actively ask for song suggestions and ways that I can incorporate my students’ interests and experiences into our music lessons.” 

Schlegel believes music is a conduit for individuals to be heard.  

“The hope that we can somehow present the efforts, contexts and realizations of social-emotional learning as a means of creating teaching and learning spaces that ultimately gets more people, involved in more music, for more life, is a perpetual dream,” says Schlegel.  

Edgar also believes music is a space for healing and helps people come together. He sees the commonality of music promotes that each voice matters and that through that exploration of voice, unity is created. This unity extends beyond anyone who identifies as a musician. 

“I think we can all remember times in our lives when we had a rough day, so we turned to listen to our favorite song. And the interesting thing about music is sometimes we want music to steep our emotions. Meaning if I'm sad, I'm going to go listen to a really, sad song because I want to embrace that, or I'm going to go and listen to Bob Marley because I want to be pulled out of that space,” explains Edgar. 

Workshop attendee Snead agrees with Edgar. He believes music is one of the few things we have in our world that brings us all together.  

Music can be a universal language. No matter where you go, it may look and sound different, but that's the beauty of music. — Derrick Snead, workshop attendee

“Music can be a universal language. No matter where you go, it may look and sound different, but that's the beauty of music. One of the things I think that's lacking in our world today and our society is the ability to embrace diverse cultures, distinctive styles, different ethnicities, simply different people in general,” he says. “One thing we have in common is, in some way, music has been there during our highs and lows and all the stuff in between. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. We love music and it's in our hearts.” 

The workshop allows participants to share their diverse points of view while performing, composing and improvising music in a variety of genres, instruments and styles. 

Schlegel and Edgar see the completion of the workshop as a beginning — not an ending. They are exploring ways to build on the momentum they’ve created. Schlegel believes this course is a commencement for them to continue to explore.

“I hope I have left the world—even just my small part of that world—better than I found it. I want the work to matter and help. It’s my form of social change,” says Schlegel. “More music, for more people, for MORE LIFE!” 


Health and Well Being in Music is one of the school’s continuing education courses also available for graduate or undergraduate credit. Added sessions are anticipated to continue beginning in Summer 2023. 

About the School of Music   

The School of Music at the University of South Carolina looks to be a model public higher education music school for America by being musically, academically, and artistically excellent. We see this value by hiring only excellent faculty; recruiting and admitting only excellent students; conducting our work in excellent facilities; creating, delivering, and partnering with excellent programs at our exceptional university; and by expecting excellence in student achievement. The School of Music exists to transform lives through excellence in music teaching, performance, creative activities, research and service.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.