Olivia Tucker has joined The University of New Mexico Fine Arts College faculty in the Instrumental Music program as an assistant professor of Music Education. She started her music teaching career as a band teacher at middle and high schools and moved to higher education, where she now teaches music education majors how to teach music to middle and high school students.
“It's teacher preparation within music. I love band and hope to find a place to play my flute, conduct, or teach in a community-type setting once COVID abates,” Tucker explained.
Tucker comes to UNM from the University of North Texas where she just completed her Ph.D. in music education. She will teach a variety of music education courses for undergraduate and graduate students, including instrumental methods, Intro to Music Ed for incoming freshmen and Intro to Research in Music Ed for graduate students.
Her specialty was teaching band, she said, adding, “I taught middle school band in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in north Texas prior to entering higher ed. Then, I worked with a senior citizen band during my doctoral work. Throughout some of that time, I also had a thriving flute studio where I worked with students one-on-one.”
“I grew up in a family of musicians who loved band,” Tucker recalled. “Hearing my mom talk about how fun marching band was made me want to join in 6th grade. My dad is a music minister, so music was a big part of our family life.”
Her primary instrument is the flute.
“I picked it because the band director was an encouraging, energetic woman who played the flute and made me feel great when I tried it as a shy 12-year-old,” Tucker noted. In addition, her high school band teacher influenced her career trajectory. “They were both excellent teachers with high expectations for students, and because of them, I thought it was normal for women and or people of color to be band directors. They were both Hispanic. After high school, I was a little surprised to discover that the field tended to be less diverse than my experiences. My band directors really set me up to be a successful musician and teacher, and they implicitly contributed to my desires to increase the diversity of individuals, teaching styles, and music genres in school ensembles.”
It's the combination of excellence and kindness, focus and warmth that make UNM such a special place and make me incredibly grateful to be here.
Olivia Tucker, assistant professor of Music Education
Tucker was drawn to New Mexico first because of the pleasant weather, enjoyable hiking trips, and then the warmth of her UNM interview experience.
“When I met the search committee for the first time via Zoom, I was blown away by the combination of their professional expertise and kindness. When I visited in person ̶ before COVID ̶ I had the same experience. Every student and potential colleague I met ̶ faculty members, administrators, and public school band teachers ̶ - seemed to be talented, hard-working, creative individuals who were accomplished and kind. It's the combination of excellence and kindness, focus and warmth that make UNM such a special place and make me incredibly grateful to be here. It has been a great source of joy in my life to begin working with a faculty of music that is so dedicated to helping our students succeed.”
Tucker noted that she’s stepped into her new position at a unique and challenging time.
“COVID-19, of course, is a huge challenge for musicians. We thrive when playing or singing together, and the disruption to our art form and sense of community has been very difficult. However, every challenge brings a concurrent opportunity, and it's exciting to explore musical skills and genres that can be enjoyed individually or in small groups,” she said. “Things like improvisation, chamber music, and pop and digital music-making have been a part of our curriculum for a long time, but social distancing has opened up an opportunity for us to explore these areas more deeply. I'm excited to see how our music-making evolves and grows during this difficult season.”
Once the pandemic situation clears and allows people to go back to a more normal life, Tucker is looking forward to attending UNM concerts, cheering on the marching band, and finding or starting a community group to play in or conduct.
“Music is an important pathway in UNM's connection with the community, and it will be great when we can be out in the vibrant city of Albuquerque together again.”
Looking to her students and their future, Tucker noted, “I hope my students graduate from our program with the skills they need to be successful music teachers, an open-mindedness toward incorporating methods and music genres they may be unfamiliar with in the classroom, and most of all, a lifelong goal of contributing to their students' learning and well-being as musicians and human beings.”