Rachel Bullock and Sam Tam of the Class of 2022 are the first students to complete Erskine’s recently relaunched Music Education major. Associate Professor of Music Dr. Keith Timms recreated the major, which had been discontinued more than a decade ago.
“Rachel and Sam are both amazing students,” Timms says. “Both have demonstrated great musicianship and teaching success in the classroom.”
Rachel, from Gray Court, S.C., says she was drawn to music “because of some of the amazing teachers I had growing up,” adding that those teachers “gave me my love for music.” She sings, plays the euphonium, and plays the trombone. She chose the Music Education major “because I realized that I wanted to share my love for music with others rather than keep it as my own.”
Sam, from Simpsonville, S.C., grew up playing piano and cello, singing in church choirs, attending music camps, and participating in music competitions. “The idea of being a performer for life just did not appeal to me,” he says—but neither did leaving music behind, which would have been “unthinkable.” Music Education “offers me a practical route to a job after college,” he says, adding, “I also wanted to give back and develop the next generation of musicians.”
A 1984 graduate of the previous music education program, Timms—a high school music teacher before joining the faculty at his alma mater—brought helpful experience, ideas, and skills to the task of revamping the major. He saw the potential for the new curriculum to surpass the old one.
As a graduate student, Timms had identified content and experiences he wished he had been introduced to in his major at Erskine. As a high school teacher, he had seen “holes” in the knowledge and exposure evidenced by teacher candidates from other colleges. He resolved to make Erskine’s revamped major rich in content and “competitive even with larger music schools throughout the state.”
Timms kept students in mind as he labored through the 16-month writing and approval process for the Music Education program. Observing that “not every student is suited for the largest universities, while Erskine might be a perfect fit,” he stresses that “the size of our institution must never limit the level of education our students receive.”
While completing the Music Education major, Rachel and Sam have enjoyed many of Erskine’s small-school advantages, both academic and extracurricular, including the benefits of being mentored by professors.
“The Erskine music program offers small class sizes, which is beneficial for getting extra help from professors and creating great relationships with your peers,” Rachel says.
Sam says the chance to study with Timms, Erskine’s Director of Choral Activities, is one reason he chose a choral emphasis for his major. He also praises Associate Professor of Education Sandy Robinson and Adjunct Instructor of Education Shelley Fleming, whose “dedicated teaching and detailed guidance” have helped to prepare him for classroom teaching.
While studying for a Music Education degree in the new program, both Sam and Rachel have participated in a variety of organizations, ministries, and activities which have enriched their campus experience.
Rachel has served as president of the Euphemian Little Sisters, enjoying both the social and service aspects of literary society membership, and has been active in Alpha Psi Omega, the national theater honor society. “Both these organizations allowed me to grow and become myself at Erskine,” she says. “Both allowed me to experience the role of leadership in dedication to something outside of academics.”
She remembers performing with the Choraleers at Disney World as an exciting experience. She recalls a Halloween “pumpkin carving, pumpkin painting, and pumpkin smashing” event she helped organize. “So much of the school came out to see this and participate. It made me feel like my society was really making a difference to the campus,” she says.
Her participation in Sinfonia, Jazz Band, and Choraleers taught Rachel “the power that music can have over people.” When performing in churches and at the local senior living facility, “I watched as our music brought tears to people’s eyes as we shared our love for God. It taught me how much I can make a difference by sharing my music and my love for God.”
In addition to the Music Education major, Sam has completed a minor in Business Administration. “I am strong in mathematics, so accounting classes were a breeze compared to my education classes,” he says. His parents own a learning center, and he wanted to learn more about the business operations “so that I can help them out.” Working on the minor does not seem to have limited his campus involvement.
“Campus activities and organizations have been a vital way for me to connect with other students and expand my circle at Erskine,” he says. He has been a member of Choraleers and Chamber Singers since his freshman year; has played for a semester each in Jazz Band and Sinfonia; has been a Resident Assistant for three years; and has been part of the Student Christian Association as well as Epsilon Sigma Tau (for student teachers) and the academic honor society Alpha Chi. He also played in the chapel worship band.
Sam’s faith has grown through his participation in campus ministries, including Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). “Campus ministries have grown my faith and helped me connect with like-minded individuals. When I am overwhelmed by schoolwork, tiredness, and life, I can always look forward to RUF on Sunday afternoons,” he says, adding that RUF “has acted as an oasis during my years at Erskine.”
Family and friends will be proud to see Rachel and Sam cross the stage at commencement. So will their professors. Dr. Keith Timms, who spent months recreating the Music Education major for students like them, will be especially proud.
“I believe that we now offer a Music Education degree that is competitive with institutions across the state,” Timms says. “I predict that Rachel and Sam will become successful, innovative, and influential leaders in the South Carolina music education community.”
Rachel Bullock, pictured at top right, will teach choir at Laurens Middle School in Laurens, S.C. this fall, and plans to pursue a master’s degree in educational administration. Sam Tam, shown at top left, will teach chorus and general music at McCracken Middle School, Spartanburg, S.C. Congratulations to Rachel, Sam, and the entire Class of 2022!