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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Allison Paetz

Allison Paetz

Vocal Music Teacher
Rocky River High School
Rocky River, Ohio

Rocky River High School’s Vocal Music Teacher Allison Paetz enlists the community and engages students when teaching global music. “I love performing music from all over the world, but I am certainly not an expert in every culture,” she says. “I have worked with students to select music that originated in a culture that they have a connection to or special knowledge of. Then, I involve them in helping to teach the language or share information and traditions related to the song.”

Paetz welcomes parents and grandparents to help with language if a student isn’t comfortable, and she says that her class’ understanding and connection to the music is much deeper because of those experiences. “The biggest challenge is finding the right piece for an ensemble in terms of voicing and difficulty level,” Paetz explains. “I have seen so much more music become available since I started teaching, but I would love to see music publishers expand their offerings even more. It would be fantastic to have resources beyond the printed page, especially for music that isn’t traditionally transmitted that way.”

Ten years ago, Paetz started the a cappella group, Chromatix, because she wanted to have an ensemble that could sing challenging arrangements of contemporary popular music. The 14 members of Chromatix — the largest group yet — regularly perform at local events and festivals, and once they helped her during a presentation at a vernacular music conference.

Like all educators, Paetz adapted her teaching approach during the pandemic, and she has retained some of the technology that she used when she taught online. “I still use some lesson plans and projects, especially those that give students the opportunity to transcribe and arrange music. For example, students in our beginning ensemble compose short melodies using a browser-based notation software, which we then use for sight-reading in class,” she says.

Paetz has also embraced the district’s implementation of Canvas to make more resources available to students 24/7 so they can practice independently. “Recently, students recorded themselves singing with their phones while we rehearsed the same piece together in class,” she says. “Students submitted their individual recordings for a quick and easy formative assessment. That would have been a file-management nightmare before Canvas, but I can do things like that more frequently now.”

Paetz is currently working on her Ph.D. dissertation and is conducting a study on perfectionism, stress and burnout in pre K–12 music educators in the United States. “I love what I do, but it is hard work. My hope is that my research can help identify patterns of thought and behavior that increase stress and burnout among music teachers so that we can work on better supporting music teachers and, as a result, students,” she says.