Orchestra teacher talks about career and students’ musical growth

For several years, Johnson City Schools orchestra instructor Susan Lambert has worked in Indian Trail Intermediate School, Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High School, guiding student musicians as they hone in on their instruments from fifth grade to graduation. 

The Erwin resident and University of Tennessee music alumna recently corresponded with the Press to tell us about her work, starting with some fast facts about herself and her interests. 

Lambert Briefly: 

Hobbies: “Visiting new places and exploring new walking trails with my husband Chuck and our Boston terrier Sam.” 

Favorite food: Chocolate

Favorite musician: Frank Sinatra

Favorite historical figure: Ludwig Van Beethoven

Pet peeves: “Waiting for someone who is late.” 

What led to your teaching career with Johnson City Schools?

I wanted to move back to East Tennessee from Nashville to be closer to my family in Maryville. When I was hired for the orchestra position, I was excited about the challenge of being responsible for developing one of only nine public school system orchestra programs in the state of Tennessee.

What do you like most about your work? 

I like the fact that the Johnson City Schools system has always supported the orchestra program and the students involved by allowing me artistic latitude. We create lasting memories for these students with special events such as working with Grammy award-winning artist Mark Wood and collaborations with the Johnson City Symphony.

Why do you believe that the arts are important to have in schools?

While it has been proven that the arts increase student test scores, the reason I feel they are necessary is that it reaches the hearts and minds of the students. It gives them a sense of achievement, they become more engaged in school, develop creative thinking processes that are necessary for today’s job market; and teaches teamwork and self-discipline. Most importantly, the arts can provide enjoyment, memories and is something that students can be a part of their entire life as performers and patrons of the arts.

Can you talk about the unique relationship that you are able to build with your students since you have them when they first start their instrument in fifth grade until they graduate?

Being a student’s orchestra teacher for eight years is very unique and rewarding. No one else gets to do that. Relationships and bonds are built with both the students and their families. Not only do I get to watch them grow up and mature as individuals but I get to see them grow and mature as musicians as well. Students, their families and I create lasting memories from their first Winter Concert as beginners to their last Senior Concert right before graduation. At the end of eight years, they know that they have been loved and appreciated for the individuals that they are and that they will always be a part of this orchestra family.

What do you hope to be doing following your work as an orchestra teacher? 

I would like to continue on in some role in the field of music education.