BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Jennifer Snodgrass, professor of music theory in the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University, is the recipient of a 2020 University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. She will receive a $12,500 cash prize.
One faculty member from each of North Carolina’s 16 public universities and one from the North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics are granted this prestigious recognition.
“At a time when we are all being called upon to think more creatively than ever, faculty such as Dr. Snodgrass exemplify the scholarship and ingenuity that elevates the Appalachian Experience,” said Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts. “I am so very proud of her accomplishments, and I am pleased the Board of Governors recognized her excellence in teaching.”
Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris, interim provost and executive vice chancellor for Appalachian, said, “Dr. Snodgrass demonstrates teaching excellence across a wide range of levels, through her work with grade school children in Duke University’s TIP (Talent Identification Program), high school students in the Cannon Music Camp and undergraduate and graduate students at Appalachian. She has received numerous teaching awards recognizing her outstanding contributions.”
According to Zachary Lloyd ’18, one of Snodgrass’ former students, the Excellence in Teaching Award winner has a mantra that influences everything she does: “Empower the undergrad.”
“Not only does Dr. Snodgrass love to teach undergraduates but does so in a way that encourages critical thinking, supports making mistakes and praises exploration and learning. She works to empower her students — allowing them to work alongside her on her own research projects and supporting them through their own projects,” said Lloyd, who earned a Bachelor of Music in music performance in piano with a concentration in music theory and composition from Appalachian.
6 other faculty receive campus-based awards
The Board of Governors also named six other Appalachian faculty members to receive awards. A university awards committee from Appalachian selected the awardees, who were nominated by students, administrators or alumni for their innovative teaching methods in the classroom, making a difference in the way students learn.
Dr. Lindsay Masland, associate professor in the university’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology, is the recipient of the Appalachian State University Excellence in Teaching Award with a $1,500 prize.
The following are the winners of the Appalachian State University School/College Awards, worth $1,000 each:
- Dr. Sarah Carmichael, professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences.
- Dr. Mary Ballard, professor in the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology.
- Scott Wynne, professor in the Hayes School of Music.
- Dr. Cameron Lippard, professor in the Department of Sociology.
- Dr. Alan Needle, associate professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science.
Dr. Jennifer Snodgrass: From an opera performer to an educator
As an accomplished opera singer, Snodgrass said her decision to teach surprised her peers and professors. She had developed a love for opera at the age of 7, when she borrowed a collection of opera music from her local library. Her parents, amateur folk singers, encouraged her interest by enlisting a teacher who introduced her to the languages and stories of opera.
“I was too young to sing opera at that point,” Snodgrass shared, “but by the time I was in fourth grade I was touring with the Virginia Opera, playing the part of a street urchin.”
Snodgrass continued singing and studying opera through high school and college. During her junior year, she strained her vocal cords, and a professor suggested she take some extra music theory classes and become a tutor, allowing her voice to rest and heal.
“One night while tutoring, I was so excited about what I was teaching that I didn’t even pause to use an eraser on my whiteboard; I just wiped it off with my hand,” she said.
After the session, as she looked at her ink-covered hands, Snodgrass had an epiphany. “I discovered how much I loved teaching and realized I could make a difference in the lives of students,” she said.
While music theory can seem like a math problem to some, Snodgrass said she likes to focus on the “experience of the music.”
“Music theory is the study of why and how music is put together. We look at the underlying structure of the music — the rhythm, the harmony, the patterns, how the composer put it together — and think about how it is perceived by listeners, why it evokes a certain emotion,” she explained.
She continued, “I believe that students are capable of amazing things, of giving their opinions and thinking through the subject. I like to give them the tools, then get out of their way. I’m more interested in understanding a student’s process, rather than getting a correct answer.”
Snodgrass said she still wipes the whiteboard with her hands sometimes — as a reminder of the moment she realized her love for teaching.
Transition to online teaching
Snodgrass’ energy in the classroom is one of the characteristics that stands out to students, said Molly Reid ’14, who will graduate from Appalachian in May with her second master’s degree, this one in piano performance.
Reid, who worked with Snodgrass as an undergraduate research and instructional assistant and now works with her as a graduate assistant, said, “Dr. Snodgrass has a genuine desire to get to know her students both as musicians and people — which creates a mutually respectful and meaningful environment that extends beyond the confines of her classroom. Through her kindness, generosity of spirit and positive energy, she inspires her students to be the best version of themselves and to never stop learning.”
In March, when classes transitioned to online delivery in response to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Snodgrass had to adjust the way she teaches and encourages her students. She tries to keep the students motivated by reaching out to them individually by email, she said.
“This is not typical online teaching. It isn’t what any of us signed up for, but it’s the reality we’re in. I’m telling my students and other faculty to be gentle with one another,” she said.
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About the Hayes School of Music
The Hayes School of Music prepares young musicians for professional lives as performers, composers, music educators, music therapists, conductors and music industry professionals, ensuring the next generation of musical leadership for the state, region and nation. Noted for quality instruction by national and internationally recognized faculty musicians, the school offers four undergraduate degree programs and three graduate-level programs. Learn more at https://music.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.