School visits provide insights for ASU administrators

December 5, 2008

Participating in Phoenix’s 17th Annual Principal for a Day program sponsored by Merrill Lynch has given two administrators from ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) the chance to see dedicated public school educators in action while expanding their own community connections.

CTEL Dean Mari Koerner and Assistant Dean Sally Hurwitz each spent a day at a school in the city of Phoenix. Koerner visited Mitchell Elementary School in the Isaac Elementary School District. She is now making plans with Linda Crawford, the school’s principal, to bring a group of Mitchell School students to ASU’s West campus this spring to experience Arizona State University firsthand.

“My visit to Mitchell School served as a wonderful reminder of how a great public school can work for each child,” Koerner says.

“The diversity in the school only makes the learning more exciting because of the inclusion of families and the community. Mitchell is a school where a serious approach to learning is matched by kindness and joy which can be found in doing a good job. The teachers are striving to become even better, as 20 of them are undergoing the rigorous process of obtaining a National Board Certification.”

Hurwitz was the guest of Kristin Lee, principal of Desert Trails Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. The day started with an example of how business support can assist public schools, as arriving children and their parents were greeted by the mascot from a local restaurant that would be donating a portion of the evening’s profits to the school.

“I had the privilege of being included in a pre-conference discussion with a teacher in preparation for Mrs. Lee’s observation of the teacher the following week,” Hurwitz says. “Mrs. Lee was very skilled in gathering information and challenging the teacher to be thoughtful in her lesson preparation.”

Later Hurwitz sat in on what she describes as an “amazing lesson” in which a second-grade teacher used cooperative learning strategies to teach compound words. “What a treat – the teacher did a great job,” Hurwitz says.

Koerner and Hurwitz were two of more than 160 Valley business and community leaders who participated in the annual Phoenix Principal for a Day program. Both were left with strongly positive impressions of the program.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to participate in a real school setting and bring back knowledge to CTEL’s future teachers and principals about what lies ahead,” Hurwitz says. Adds Koerner, “Principal for a Day illustrates the benefit of becoming aware of the schools in your community. A school you may have simply passed by can become a new connection where your friendship and advocacy can make a difference.”

Koerner says participation in the program is a logical extension of CTEL’s close working relationships with Valley school districts. Each semester hundreds of CTEL students are placed in student teaching and field experience placements in Phoenix-area schools, as part of the college’s degree offerings in early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education.

CTEL offers teacher certification programs for undergraduate students as well as people with a bachelor’s degree in another field who are pursuing a career change to education. The college also offers master’s degrees and a doctorate in education for working teachers and administrators.

In addition to its degree programs at ASU’s West campus and in several rural Arizona communities, CTEL is in the process of expanding offerings for education majors at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. More information is available at">"> Download Full Image

Piano competition draws best from around the world

December 5, 2008

When Baruch Meir announced, in 2004, that he was going to start an international piano competition at ASU, colleagues and friends told him he was crazy.

He should just put on a regional event, they said, and forget about the rest of the world. “But it was my idea for many years to start an international competition and support young, talented musicians aspiring to make a career in music,” Meir said, “and ASU’s New American University model was just the right place to do it. Download Full Image

“The ASU Herberger College School of Music’s commitment to the competition, led by its director, Kimberly Marshall, is astounding," Meir said. "Having an event of such magnitude at ASU’s music school goes hand in hand with the outstanding reputation of our faculty.”

Meir, an associate professor of piano who became president of the Arizona Young Artist Committee in 2004 and a Bösendorfer International Concert Artist the year before, first wanted to expand the existing local Young Artist competition – an organization that provides competitions, scholarships, recitals and master classes for young pianists -- but when no one else thought it was a good idea, he went to the Bösendorfer piano company in Vienna.

“I said, ‘Let’s make an alliance with the Young Artist Committee and ASU to put on an international piano contest in Arizona.’ It took some convincing, but they finally accepted, and delivered grand pianos for the stage and practice pianos,” Meir said.

That year, the Schimmel company from Germany, which was previously involved with the local Young Artist Competition, joined the alliance to put on an international competition for younger musicians.

In just a few short years, Meir’s dream of putting Arizona – and ASU – on the worldwide musical stage has been realized. “Everyone knows ASU,” he said. “The word has spread and we get inquiries months ahead.”

This year’s event will be held Jan. 4-10, and a record 155 young pianists from nearly 30 countries, including Turkmenistan, China, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Israel and Armenia, sent in their applications and audition DVDs for the Bösendorfer and Schimmel competitions.

For the Bösendorfer Competition, which is for pianists ages 19-32, 28 semifinalists were chosen out of 110 applicants to compete for the $15,000 first prize.

In the Schimmel contest, which is for 13- to 15-year-olds (junior division) and 16- to 18-year-olds (senior division), 14 out of 45 pianists made the final cut. They will compete for first prizes of $3,000 and $4,000, as well as recitals at the Brauschweig festival in Germany.

“It’s a tough competition,” Meir said. “They are all outstanding musicians. Some have already won major prizes.”

The Bösendorfer/Schimmel competition is one of the best in the world, Meir said, which was his goal from the start. “The prizes are substantial. I wanted to put Arizona on the cultural map.”

In addition to the $15,000 cash prize, donated by David Katzin, the winner of the Bösendorfer competition wins a gold medal created by OT Jewelers in Mesa, a solo recital at the Bösendorfer Saal in Vienna, concerto performances with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and recitals in the National Concert Series in Serbia.

To keep the playing field even, contestants are given a limited choice of music to perform at the competition. This year, for example, in addition to one work of their choice, Bösendorfer contestants must play a sonata by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert in the prelimary round; an etude by Chopin or Liszt in the semi-final round, and one complete work of the classical period by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert for the final round.

That strategy has paid off: For the third year in a row, the Alink-Argerich Foundation, an organization headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, that compiles details on music competitions throughout the world, has invited the Bösendorfer/Schimmel competition to be listed.

“Alink only invites the top piano competitions in the world to join,” Meir said.

Putting on an international piano competition is not an easy task, and Meir depends on members of the local community to serve as sponsors and host families.

“The host families bring the contestants to the performances,” Meir said. “Some of the pianists barely speak English. The host families will show them around and make them feel comfortable here, releasing some of the competition anxiety.

“Every year we look for more host families,” Meir added. “We’ve had a lot of faculty and retired faculty, as well as music lovers from around the Valley, serving as hosts.”

Michelle and Jim Sarina of Gilbert, who hosted competition winner Sangyoung Kim last year, said it was “a wonderful experience” to open their home to Kim.

“It was exciting to see someone so dedicated to her art and passion, and it was a great thing for our three children, who have all taken piano lessons, to see this happening,” said Michelle Sarina.

Kim, who is from Korea but who has been studying in Boston for many years, practiced from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., had lunch, then practiced until dinner time, and went to bed at 9 p.m. each day she was with the Sarinas.

“Helping the contestants stay focused and meeting their needs is important, Michelle Sarina said. “Such commitment they have.”

Kim’s prize included two solo performances with the Phoenix Symphony, both of which all five Sarinas attended. “We’ve stayed in touch with Sangyoung,” Michelle Sarina said, “and we invited her to visit us after the concerts.”

As he is teaching and working on the piano competition, Meir sometimes thinks of what his friends said when he decided to study for his doctoral degree at ASU, after being accepted by both The Juilliard School and The Peabody Institute.

“They said, ‘You must be crazy. There is nothing there,’” Meir recalled.

But Meir has had the last word, and proven his critics wrong – not once, but twice.

To learn more about the 2009 Bösendorfer and Schimmel competition, or to become a member of the competitions’ group of friends, go to">">herbergercollege.asu.e.... For information about being a host family, call (480) 965-8740.