Phillis Bunch is a current graduate student in Tarleton’s Music Education program. She works as a K-4th grade music teacher and choir director for Aledo ISD. As the choir director, she oversees four main productions each year: Veteran’s Day, Christmas, a Spring Tour, and a second-grade production. During our interview, Phillis stated: “This year it is about garage bands. My second graders are singing a Bon Jovi song because I’m old and I like 80’s music.” She is actually a woodwinds specialist, and plays all woodwinds instruments, although flute is her favorite.
Meet and learn more about Phillis in the following conversation . . .
COGS: How did you learn about Tarleton’s graduate program?
PB: I guess at TMEA—the Texas Music Educator’s Association Convention. Also, my little brother (Dr. Atchley in the Ag Department) is a professor there, so he may have been the one to tell me.
COGS: Why did you ultimately choose to attend Tarleton for grad school?
PB: My kids started going there, and I just thought it was great. It is such a wonderful place, and I wanted to be part of it. I went to MSU for my undergraduate degree, but then I got smart and came to Tarleton.
COGS: What advice would you have for someone who is currently going through the grad school search and admissions process?
PB: Tarleton is the best place. I would love to be a recruiter for Tarleton. I talk about it all the time, and everybody that I know that is even thinking about graduate school, I refer them to the website. Especially for the music department, because it is all online. Right now we’ve got someone from Indonesia in the program, and then there are several people from outside of the state of Texas, a lot of people from South Texas, and you just can’t do that at a lot of schools.
Tarleton works around the schedule for music educators. It gets you done before Christmas concerts and things like that. They just really make it to where the music educator can have everything they need to complete the program. They work really well with the scheduling, and the professors are amazing.
COGS: How do you balance school work with other obligations like work and family?
PB: Luckily, since it is online, I can do a little bit here and a little bit there and I can get it done in the evenings and weekends. When the kids are doing homework, I’m doing homework. It’s just life. With it being all online, it’s really easy because I am not having to go and be somewhere at 7:00 in the evening for a class. I can take 20 minutes of my day that I have extra and log on and get a little part done of whatever I am working on.
Having this program works really well for the working student. I believe it was designed for band directors so it would work around their schedule. We do two classes a semester, but they’re back-to-back 8 week classes instead of two 16-week classes. It is accelerated a little bit, but you’re only having to focus on one thing, and I think that makes it a lot easier.
COGS: How do you go about building relationships with the other students to combat the issue that online students often have of feeling isolated?
PB: On the discussion boards we actually talk about all kinds of things. I’ve had one of the new students email me, and we ended up calling each other and talking through a project. Since all of us have been teaching for several years, are older, have kids and a family, it’s kind of easy. We have done several classes where you do a PowerPoint or Prezi to introduce yourself.
All the students within the program who live in Texas have the opportunity to get together in February every year at the Music Educator’s Convention. I’ve gotten to meet several people face-to-face last semester and I am really looking forward to meeting more people face-to-face this coming year.
COGS: What are your future plans after graduation?
PB: My ultimate goal is to work for Tarleton: I would love to be a professor. I’ve got to get my doctorate first, but I’ll actually do anything. I want to teach at the next level. After I graduate with my Master’s, I am going to find a Doctoral program.
I’ll continue teaching. Being enrolled in college while working as an elementary school teacher isn’t very difficult because I am not a regular teacher. I don’t have to deal with all the tests and all that. I teach music. We have fun and we play games and we sing and dance, and so I just use my same lesson plans every year. I don’t have to go home and grade 100 papers. I’ll probably stay working in an elementary school until I graduate with my Doctorate and then move on from there.