Teaching music is more than a job for Cynthia Wagoner. It’s a way for her to change the lives of the young people she encounters.
“Through my years of teaching, I have never met a student who simply could not learn, but I have met a few who are extremely resistant to learning. It is the resistance that I find fascinating and a challenge to be met,” she said. “It is easy to help those who excel and are outgoing, just as it is easy to encourage the optimistic in the classroom. Giving up on any student easily is not an option for me.”
Wagoner is an assistant professor of music education at East Carolina University. She specializes in instrumental music instruction and researches music teacher identity, music integration and pedagogical theories in music education, including issues of social justice.
“Music has been my passion throughout my life,” Wagoner said. “As a teacher, music continues to be the subject that allows me to interact with and inspire students, not imparting wisdom, but encouraging and pushing for personal growth in knowledge and curiosity.”
Wagoner earned her bachelor’s in music education and oboe in 1979 and a master’s of music education in 1986 from Indiana State University. She also holds a Ph.D. in music education from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Wagoner remains close to her Sycamore roots and jumped at the chance last fall to speak to a class via Skype.
“It always gives me a rush to see the new faces of ISU,” she said.
She also returned to campus three years ago to honor a former director of bands George Graesch. During the visit, she spoke to music education students, worked with Graesch, Gary Smith, Herman Knoll and William Wakefield on the podium, all band directors whom she credits as great influences to her work today.
“I love being able to give back to Indiana State and let those folks know how meaningful their lessons have been in my own life,” Wagoner said. “There are many new faculty at ISU, and I have been fortunate to get to know many of them and enjoyed spending time with them at conferences around the country. I think there are ways being a Sycamore is still impacting my life in positive ways and will continue to do so in the future.”
Her enthusiasm for teaching is easy to see. As a doctoral student, she was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant for Excellence in Teaching, a nomination made by her students and faculty. In 2016, she was a finalist for the Robert L. Jones Alumni Award for Outstanding Teaching at ECU.
While teaching in Plymouth, Ind., she was named most influential teacher more than 15 years and was recognized as Student Council Outstanding Teacher at Plymouth High School twice.
Wagoner remains active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator in North Carolina and Indiana.
She is in the third year of a partnership with Pitt County, N.C., schools and junior music education majors and will be expanding the project to three schools and is collecting data from the student experiences teaching in those schools as part of a junior instrumental methods class.
While Wagoner says she feels sharing her knowledge with others is paramount, she also understands one never stops learning.
“There will never be a time when I will stop learning and growing as a teacher myself. The interaction with each class provides a rich learning environment and watching other teachers interact with their classes provides an opportunity to gain insight into the craft as well,” Wagoner said. “I am never tired of reading about, going to workshops on or discussing how to teach and provide a rich learning environment for students.”
Wagoner has also curated various grants and research awards. She is finishing a two-year Creative Research Award from the College of Fine Arts and Communication to examine technology attitude changes in pre-service music teachers actively using new technologies in the classroom.
She has a publication coming out in September on music teacher identity and another under revision for publication later in the year. Wagoner has both research articles and three other projects still in progress.
“I never imagined life in higher ed. to be quite as hectic and busy as it has turned out to be, balancing research, service and teaching, but I love getting out and helping in the classrooms across North Carolina, judging or doing honor bands whenever I get the chance,” said Wagoner
Most recently, Wagoner has taken on the job of coordinator of assessment for the East Carolina University School of Music for fall 2016. “It will be a new challenge for sure, but I consider this an instructional process duty, not administration, and it feels like a natural extension of what I do every day,” she said.
Wagoner and her husband, a visual artist, live in Greenville, N.C., and enjoy spending as much time as they can with their adult children.