A Heart Full of Song

Music teacher Dana Sosebee developed a love of music at a very early age. “I grew up singing in the church choir and also took piano lessons,” Dana said. Although many children find playing piano tedious and even torturous, “It gave me a good
ear for music and a solid foundation for singing,” she expressed. Dana started
learning piano at the age of 5, and she began formal voice lessons in the seventh
grade. As early as the second grade, what Dana wanted to be when she grew up was
obvious. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I used to make my brothers play
school and sing with me,” she laughed.

When Dana attended high school, itwas her voice teacher who inspired her.
“My music professor was just one of those people who impacted my life and
really cared about me as a whole person, not just a music student. She really helped
instill in me my love of music.” Dana later earned her Bachelor of Arts in music
from Dallas Baptist University and soon began living her dream. “I went on to
teach music at Plano Independent School District for eight years and am now into
my second year instructing at Life School [in Red Oak].” Besides teaching, Dana
has also made a music CD, which is a compilation of her favorite musical styles
such as classical, Broadway and hymns. “I used to also have my own band
that would play for me; it was all a very cool experience,” Dana reminisced.

But performing is just one of the many
positive aspects of the musical arts. “I teach children from kindergarten
through the fifth grade and also lead a sixth- and seventh-grade chorus every
day before school starts.” Now Dana is devoted to her music, her students
and the performing arts. She is truly living her dream, and she loves to share
it with others. Dana’s goal is to instill the importance of musical arts into her
students while inspiring their musical talents. “Besides teaching at the school,
I also give private voice lessons to kids over 10,” she said.

“A lot of instructors might just teach a music program to their students; I teach
my kids using the Kodály Method, which concentrates on more than just singing,”
Dana explained. “I want them to read, sight-read and even write their own music by
the time they leave my program. My fifth-graders are currently writing their own songs,
and that’s a big thing for them because they just learned the music
scales,” she proudly said. Her students also like to learn about the different
instruments available to them through her program. “They love to play different
percussion instruments — rhythm sticks, wood blocks, drums, the triangle and
even the xylophone,” Dana said. “I think the kids like the xylophone because it
helps them to see how far apart the notes are from each other.” Just recently, Dana’s
fifth-grade class started learning how to play the recorder.

Dana finds her career both fun and fulfilling, “I need to instill a love of music
into these kids, especially since many of them have never been exposed to this art
before,” she said. Soon after her students start her program, they begin to realize
that music has many benefits. In Dana’s classes, “We play musical math games and
the kids learn to multitask, as they sing and perform at the same time.” Everyone
gets to participate in vocal exercises. Dana considers class participation to be key for
many reasons, “It encourages them to feel safe. Music and singing can be scary and
can make one feel vulnerable, so it’s very important the students know it’s OK to
make mistakes. This way, everyone learns the lessons without fear of performing,”
Dana explained.

Dana uses high levels of encouragement and positive reinforcement in her teaching.
“I want to open people’s eyes to all of the benefits of music and the fine arts,
because music has been shown to stimulate the brain. It has also been proven that
instrumentalists are very smart people in general.” In teaching the performing
arts, Dana emphasizes taking baby steps, “because music really is not that hard to
learn. The kids first start learning beat, rhythm, melodies and later harmony. Then
they learn that all of these lessons build on each other to create a final outcome
of writing a song and later performing it. When that happens, students become
really happy and proud, because they have accomplished something so great,”
she exclaimed. “It is even more fulfilling when a child realizes that music can tell a
story without even using words.”

Written by Diana Merrill Claussen