Creative connections through music

Rich Edwards, associate professor of music

Rich Edwards conducts an orchestra of summer camp students in July.

Throughout Rich Edwards’ life, music has been the path to deeper, stronger human connections.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, he helped run a music camp for students from across the country. In Charlotte, he taught high school musicians. He served as the field commander for the Marching 110 as an undergrad at Ohio University in Athens.

“When I’m teaching, conducting or playing, that is where I’m hoping things go — to that life-changing human connection,” he says.

Since joining Ohio Wesleyan in 2009 as music education coordinator, Edwards has made those connections the focus of his teaching, giving future music teachers the tools to instruct their students once they enter classrooms of their own. This summer, he gave his students and the surrounding community yet another opportunity to connect through the first OWU Summer Music Camp, July 8-12 on campus.

“I wanted to find ways that would resonate with our community and with the students in our department to really help people in central Ohio become more aware of the awesome things that we’re doing in the Music Department at OWU,” Edwards says.

Students from across departments worked as counselors for the first camp this summer, which gave them a hands-on, real-world chance to practice teaching music, Edwards says, and resonated with OWU’s community service traditions.

Ohio Wesleyan music education students already do more field work than is required, spending time observing professional music teachers in local elementary, middle, and high schools before spending a semester student-teaching a class of their own.

“I think that authentic, real-time, live-child-that-I’m-teaching-in-front-of-me experience is one of the best ways to become a better teacher,” he says.

Music brings people together — not just for those who play it, but for those who hear it, too. When different instruments and different voices combine, they become something bigger than they were as individuals — a greater expression of emotion that can move people to laughter or tears. That power became clear to Edwards, himself the son of a band director, at an early age growing up in Willoughby, Ohio.

When I’m teaching, conducting or playing, that is where I’m hoping things go to — that life-changing human connection.

Edwards still plays trombone in the Delaware Community Band, alongside his wife and sister. “It’s like being in high school again, and I’m cutting up in the back with the low brass section,” he says.

Since Jan. 1, he has conducted the OWU Symphonic Wind Ensemble, an experience that has only strengthened his belief that music can create near-magical links among people.

“Words don’t always represent music very well, but if I had to try, I would say that conducting the ensemble has been this expression of music in a physical, kinesthetic way,” he says. “It’s the connection between the conductor and the ensemble and a synergy between all of us, in that we each have a part to play. Neither of us can create the entirety of our performance without the other.”

“That’s what music can do,” he says. “Each person is different, but when we’re learning how to make music together, we often let defenses down that may normally be there. There’s something about music that just gets inside your soul and lets you open up and express and connect with others.”

Story by Laura Arenschield


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