This week Nick Averwater continues his conversation with Alexis Yatuzis-Derryberry, General Music Teacher at Stewarts Creek High School in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Before moving to Stewarts Creek in 2021, Alexis spent nearly 20 years teaching general music and choir at the elementary and middle school levels. She is also President of the TMEA, The Tennessee Music Education Association, and an adjunct Music Education Instructor at Middle Tennessee State University.
In this episode, Alexis shares ideas that will help to keep students interested in music throughout Elementary School, Middle School, and High School, and how Tennessee's strong musical traditions create unique opportunities for students during their school years, and beyond. She'll also talk about the challenges for women in leadership positions in music education.
Our conversation was recorded February 9, 2022, and is broken up in to two episodes, and this is part two.
Teaching general music has been a passion for Alexis across her entire teaching career. She loves sharing music with students who may not be involved in band, choir, or orchestra.
Alexis began her musical journey with piano lessons at age 8. She then joined the band at Smyrna Middle and Smyrna High School, playing percussion. While in school, she was a front ensemble member of the world-renowned theatrical percussion ensemble, Music City Mystique, during their 1995 and 1996 seasons. She graduated from high school in 1996. The following summer, Alexis toured Europe with the Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus performing American music all across Europe for two months.
In the fall of 1996, Alexis entered Middle TN State University School of Music as a music education major with a concentration in percussion. During her college career, she marched with the Band of Blue for 4 years; earned the Linda T. Mitchell leadership award; was a front ensemble member of the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps; and was also selected as the first-place performer for the Percussive Arts Society college keyboard soloist.
After finishing college, Alexis began her teaching career in 2002 at Siegel Middle School. There, she created the general music and choir program from the ground up. While at Siegel Middle, she was awarded more than $40,000 in grant monies which was used to purchase guitars, world drums, and 18 iMac computers with midi keyboard controllers. She also created 2 choral ensembles while at Siegel Middle: The Siegel Singers, which was open to all Siegel students, and the Select Singers, which was an auditioned ensemble. Siegel's choirs consistently received Superiors in performance and sight-reading at festivals. While at Siegel, Alexis also completed Level I and Level II Orff-Schulwerk training and completed her Master’s of Fine Arts from Middle TN State University. During her 13 years at Siegel Middle, she was named TN Association for Middle Schools (TAMS) team teacher of the year, Siegel Middle Teacher of the Year, as well as Rutherford County Middle-Level Teacher of the Year.
In 2014, Alexis accepted the position of music specialist at Lascassas Elementary, where she taught K-5 general music, instrument team, and choir. While at Lascassas, she completed Feierabend First Steps in Music and Conversational Solfege training, and was named Lascassas Elementary Teacher of the Year, RCS Elementary Teacher of the Year, TN Governor’s School for the Arts Music Teacher of the Year, CMA Music Teacher of Excellence, and was recently inducted into the Band of Blue Hall of Fame.
Today, Alexis lives in Murfreesboro with her husband David, who works for the music rights organization AllTrack, and their two Boston Terriers, Maggie and Winnie. They love traveling the US with friends and family. One of their favorite activities is seeing live music performances from classical to rock. Alexis' favorite band is Pearl Jam, and her husband indulges her love of following the band across the US for all of their tours.
Photo & Biography credit: Stewarts Creek High School
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