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Earn a master’s degree while continuing to teach

07/19/2019

In 2016 Susanna Saw, already recognized as one of Asia’s leading proponents of Kodály, a comprehensive program to train basic musical skills and teach the reading and writing of music, began looking for master’s programs in Music Education.

“I was focusing on Australia since it’s closer to my home in Kuala Lampur in Malaysia,” she says.  “But then my Kodály mentor, Dr. James Cuskelly, suggested that I look at some new online graduate programs at the Westminster Choir College.” 

Cuskelly had learned about the programs from Frank Abrahams, who was serving as chair of WCC’s Music Education Department Chair and visiting the Brisbane Summer School.

Saw checked them out on the web, and decided that the Master of Music Education – Choral Focus – would be the ideal program for her since it’s designed for licensed music educators who want to improve their conducting, teaching and rehearsal skills. The program can be completed part-time through online classes and summer study or over two academic years with some summer study.

“I was attracted to the combination of choral and music education in one degree,” she says.  Already a successful teacher in Malaysia, she felt that the program seemed to be tailor-made for her, since she could continue to work while pursuing an MME from Westminster.

Saw is a lecturer and choir director at the Faculty of Music at University of Malaya (UM), University Technology MARA (UiTM), and the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA), where she conducts the MIA Ladies Chorus, which has won many Gold Medals from various international competitions. In 2007, she established the Young Choral Academy in Kuala Lumpur, a venue for choral lovers to learn more about choral education. She was instrumental in bringing the Kodály Training Course to Malaysia to improve local standards of classroom music teaching. She is regularly invited by the Interkultur Foundation to serve on the jury for the Asia Pacific and World Choir Games. She also on the Working Committee for the Asia-Pacific Choral Council, under the auspices of the International Federation of Choral Music (IFCM). And she is the organizing chairperson for the 24th International Kodály Symposium 2019, in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Later that year, she enrolled in Westminster’s program and began taking classes online.  She traveled to Princeton to participate in some one-week summer programs: Summer Choral Institute, Conducting Institute and Voice Pedagogy Institute, and she traveled to Oxford, England for Westminster’s Choral Institute at Oxford.  She completed her orals via Skype. This past May her family joined Saw for a spring vacation that culminated with Westminster’s Commencement in Princeton, where she received her diploma.

Reflecting on her experience in the MME program, Saw says, “I’ve gained a lot of ideas on designing curriculum, instruction planning, voice pedagogy, choral repertoire and choral conducting. It has given me more in-depth knowledge about the topics that I will use in all my classes. I am a more confident teacher now.”

Would she recommend the online MME program to other teachers who want to improve their skills without leaving their jobs?  “Definitely! The Westminster faculty are very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. All the subjects are very informative and relevant to our teaching.”

Learn more about all of Westminster’s online programs at www.rider.edu/wcconline.