The Northwestern Music Department is full of dedicated and talented professors. However, it takes more than the full-time professors who you see conducting at the front of the stage. The adjunct faculty may be behind the scenes most of the time, but they play a big role as well. They specialize in specific areas by providing private lessons to college students in almost 20 instruments such as piano, violin, saxophone, violin, trumpet, harp and with voice lessons.
Andy Keller (‘06) teaches piano lessons as an adjunct professor. He specializes on lead sheet piano which means he teaches students how to play modern worship. Every other year, he teaches a class, “leading worship teams,” where students learn about instruments in a typical praise team, gain leaderships training and engage in theological discussion. He typically has one to two students for lead sheet piano lessons per semester and has been working as an adjunct professor for 10 years.
However, Keller’s journey goes back much farther. He was a student majoring in music with a focus on religion at NW before becoming the director of worship for Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City.
“I have always had a passion for teaching and equipping college students, many of whom I get to work with at Trinity,” Keller said. “I also really appreciated how NW helped prepare and train me for the role that I currently have. Teaching adjunctly is a way to continue to build into students, use the skills and knowledge that I have and build God’s kingdom.”
Tori Buckler is a junior nursing major, but she will be taking a fifth year due to changing her major to nursing. With this extra year, she has time to add piano lessons in her schedule as a fun break in the day. So far, Buckler has loved her experience working with Keller.
“Professor Keller does a great job with figuring out where you are at and working with you on how to grow!” Buckler said. “He makes the lessons applicable to what your goals are as a musician and worship leader. I love working with him and appreciate the opportunity learning how to worship through piano.”
Janelle Phinney is another adjunct instructor who is also one of the staff accompanists. She earned a Master of Art and Religion from Yale University, Yale Divinity and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. At NW, she helps with choir rehearsal so students can learn notes efficiently and accompanies student performances as needed. She teaches music theory, music appreciation and world music.
“My favorite class to teach is World Music; I enjoy introducing students to the variety of arts and culture among various people groups,” Phinney said. “I have especially enjoyed researching the different ways people around the world worship God with their unique musical heritage.”
As an accompanist, she meets with about 12 students each semester. This is her fourth semester at NW, but she has been accompanying for 10 years, with six years being at two other schools in Ohio prior to NW. Phinney loves helping students prepare for recitals and uses her role as an opportunity to learn more great music.
Sophomore Jessica Slight, a participant in a cappella choir, heritage singers and symphonic band, works with Phinney in her lab that goes along with her music theory course.
“My ear training skills have improved greatly since the beginning of the school year,” Slight said. “I can now successfully dictate a melody, rhythm or harmonic progression, which is something I had never done before.”
Adjunct professors provide the opportunity for specialization in various musical instruments. Students have the space to grow outside of the classroom and refine their God-given talents and abilities.