The Center for Musical Arts has a variety of talented teachers. In this interview we spoke with saxophone instructor Becca Kronyak about her firm belief that music is for everyone, and how she brings that belief into her music lessons.
Center for Musical Arts: Hello! I’m Erica Reid, I’m with the Center for Musical Arts, and today I’m talking to Becca Kronyak. How are you doing today, Becca?
Becca Kronyak: I’m great, thanks for asking.
Center: Can you get started just by telling us your history with the Center for Musical Arts? I believe you’re rather new here.
Becca: Yeah, so I actually hadn’t heard about the Center until I went to the Center for the first time. My partner has been family friends with [Education Director] Kathy Kuscan for a while and I just went with him to check out the facilities and maybe put my name in there, see if they had any openings that they needed.
And they had exactly the openings that I was looking for, so I was lucky enough to be able to hop on kind of right away in a space that was immediately intriguing as a community art center, as a “music for all,” mission-oriented music facility. I was really excited to kind of fall into a place like that.
Center: Oh, I love to hear that. So let’s talk about those openings because you teach saxophone and piano. Is that correct?
Center: And can you tell me how you came to study and teach those instruments?
Becca: Sure. So I was lucky enough to grow up in a very musical household. My parents wouldn’t say that they’re musicians, but they listen to music all the time. And so when it came time to be able to play an instrument, I was immediately on board. My dad, as a huge fan of Chicago and Bob Seger Band and all that stuff, I had to play the saxophone of course. I just kind of fell in love with it there.
I started playing it when I was in about fifth grade. And then in middle schooler I started taking private lessons with a teacher who was so inspiring and he had such a gift for challenging me enough to motivate me but not enough to discourage me. And so I really fell in love with that. I fell in love with the community that music and band and specific brings with it. I just, no question, wanted to go to school for music and no question I wanted to go to school to teach music.
Center: And the saxophone, when you actually got your hands on one, did it feel like a really natural moment for you?
Becca: Yeah, it really did. I unfortunately don’t have one of “those” moments because the moment I can remember is saying, “I want to play trumpet because it has three buttons on it.” [laughs] When I handed in the slip to my teacher, it said saxophone on it. And I was like, well, I’m glad that’s what I ended up choosing…
Center: I’ve done a few of these interviews and it just always feels almost cosmic how somebody’s instrument becomes their instrument. And no matter how short or long that path is, it’s just like some kind of destiny. I don’t know, that’s how it seems to me. [laughs]
So, let’s jump to your teaching philosophy because you mentioned a specific teacher who instructed you in a way that you really liked. Are there things you borrowed from that instructor or what generally is your teaching philosophy when you’re in the room with a student?
Becca: So I really connected with a theory that was published by a music educator named Edwin Gordon. And he talks about how every human being has some level of musical ability, his words are “musical aptitude.”
I really connected with that, especially when I started teaching and seeing how, if you present the material in a way that is digestible to the student, any student can grab on and be successful immediately. I just thought that was so powerful and it really helps to shed light on how important my job is because as I’m sure it’s pretty common knowledge music is an enormous world of an art. It can be incredibly intimidating to try to enter on your own.
But with somebody like me, who has had that experience of being really overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, but also the training on how to compact and compartmentalize music to make it easier to take in, like I said, that showed the importance of my job to help bring more people into the music, into the world of music by making them feel confident and they can do it rather than them trying to do it themselves and maybe getting discouraged because it is so overwhelming.
Center: I can see why you might be drawn to somewhere like the Center for Musical Arts. It sounds like your values really match the school’s values. You must have felt that right away, I guess.
Becca: It was, like you said, it was kind of cosmic. I could see the stars align when I heard Kathy talking about the philosophy behind the school and all the teachers believe. I was like, yeah, this is where I’m supposed to be.
Center: Well, I wanted to ask too, when I was reading a bit about your history I saw that you had mentioned that you have wanted to be a teacher for as long as you can remember. Can you tell me a bit more about that sort of realization you’ve had or is it just something you’ve always known innately?
Becca: So the reason I say as long as I could remember is because—so my family’s favorite story is one of my days in elementary school we had career day and we were supposed to dress up as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I made my own little staff badge out of cardboard and I brought a grading book to school with me. And that’s just such a core memory for me.
Center: That would’ve been a classroom teacher at that point.
Becca: Mm-hmm! So I’ve always known that I was going to be a teacher. Any time I got to a new subject that I liked, I was like, oh, I’m going to be this kind of teacher. So I at one point I was going to be a math teacher, and at one point I was going to be a science teacher, and all that stuff.
But then once I got into high school and you can really start specializing in what you’re doing, and I got into a marching band and jazz band and into percussion, it was like, really, this is my place. Everything that wasn’t, music kind of started falling away, music became really core for me.
And so I was like, okay, this is what we’re settling on.
Center: That’s really interesting to me. I feel like I mostly have talked to people who pursued music first and then decided to teach it. I’m just really compelled by the idea that you have known you want to share some kind of passion with other people all along, and then found that it was music that was going to let you do that.
That’s a different journey than I’ve heard about and I think that’s really interesting.
Becca: Thank you!
Center: So when you are not teaching or listening to music, what else is filling your life?
Becca: So I love doing craft kind of stuff. I’m super into crochet, I’m working on a cardigan right now. But I also, I love things like card making, I love painting and drawing and anything artistic that I can do with my hands. I like baking too.
Colorado is amazing for outdoors, I’ve come from a family of very outdoorsy people, which is wonderful. And Colorado has been the perfect catalyst for more of that.
Center: Have you been in Colorado long?
Becca: I’ve been here for about two and a half years.
Center: Okay. Do you have a favorite outdoorsy spot you can think of that you like to visit?
Becca: I love anything in Chautauqua Park. I lived in Boulder for the last two years and I’ve hiked up to the Flatirons and the Royal Arch. It’s just breathtaking out there.
Center: Not to put you on the spot, but have you made it to a Colorado Music Festival concert at Chautauqua?
Becca: I have not. The one that was this summer I was out of town for.
Center: This summer then. This summer you’ve got to make it happen.
Becca: Yeah, absolutely.
Center: Okay. So in respect for your time, I just want to ask, is there anything else that you think it would be interesting for us to know about you, for prospective students to know about you and your journey, that we haven’t covered yet?
Becca: One thing that I think is important to know is that one of my interests and specialties is specifically early childhood music education, and really just beginners of all kinds.
I’m super fascinated by how you can take somebody with almost no musical knowledge, to fluent in music. I’m really, really interested in that really fundamental first step. So anybody who’s a beginner, even if they’re adult beginners, I love teaching beginners. So if you have no experience, I got you.
Center: What a great note to end on. Thank you so much, Becca. Thank you for your time today.
Becca: Sure, Thank you.