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March Alumni Spotlight - Elizabeth “Beth” Reed, ’01

Elizabeth “Beth” Reed graduated with a Bachelor of Music in cello in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Music Education in 2018. She is the Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium and Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music Education and Area Coordinator at Miami University. 

Why did you choose the USC School of Music? 

I grew up in Columbia, SC, and chose USC based on the cello professor Dr. Jesselson and the reputation that the music department had for creating teachers. For my graduate studies, I knew that I wanted to work with the USC String Project as part of my dissertation research and be advised by Gail Barnes in this area. 

What ensembles did you perform with while at USC? 

Chamber Ensembles and the USC Symphony Orchestra.

What person, course or experience was most influential for you while at the School of Music? 

Robert Jesselson (a great pedagogue and cello teacher) taught me how to practice and sequence instruction. Gail Barnes provided opportunities for professional growth as a music educator. USC String Project was vital for preparing me to teach; without these experiences, I would not be the teacher I am today. I appreciated the chamber music opportunities provided by Charles Fugo and Phillip Bush. During graduate school I participated in the Conductor's Institute and that was a great program to further my conducting abilities. 

How has your education at the School of Music helped you in your life and career? 

The education I received at USC was vital for my career and journey as an educator and musician. From my experience at the USC String Project, I became the Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium (NSPC) in 2018. The NSPC is a non-profit organization that supports higher education sites across the United States that train tomorrow’s string educators while providing accessible string instruction for youth and adults.  

As an assistant professor of music education at Miami University, I  see the need for authentic context learning environments for preservice teachers, such as the String Project. Preservice teachers must actively practice their craft to develop their music teacher identity. This coincides with becoming the best musician they can be, but both are needed. 

I  think because there is such a strong community of USC music educators throughout the country, we have a great network of people to rely on and collaborate with. I just conducted an honors orchestra in January where the host and organizer is a USC alumna, Marci Swift, and the other conductor was also an alumnus, Chris Selby. The hosts middle school orchestra feeder, Rachel Meyers, is also a USC alumna. We enjoyed catching up about our experiences at the School of Music.  

As a cellist and musician, I continue to play chamber music and incorporate the many practicing strategies that I learned in my cello lessons. 

What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors or activities while attending the School of Music? 

My favorite memories are the people and friendships I established at USC. Some of those people I grew up with in middle and high school, like Tim Baker, Idris Chandler and Kim Hanes Vinson. Our journey continued through college and we supported each other in personal and professional ways. 

Last year at the American String Teacher Association conference in Atlanta there were eight alumni of the USC String Project gathered in the lobby for coffee. While not all from the same year, we were connecting because of our experiences at the String Project. 

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates pursuing a music performance or music education career? 

The music education degree program is intense as you are basically double majoring in a music degree and an education degree. Take the time you need to not only become the best musician you can be, but connect your foundational courses like theory and history to your musicianship. Within the education degree, find ways to practice teaching to a variety of students at the String Project or in other capacities that the university offers such as the early childhood music programs. These experiences teaching as a preservice prepare you to become a successful and confident educator as well as a highly sought after hire. 

What is one of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating? 

Taking on the role as Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.