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Heather Cairns: Shaping Our Future Musicians by Allison Robertson

Youngsters definitely need a space where they can feel safe to express themselves. Thankfully the students of Bonham Elementary have a music teacher that allows them to have fun and feel comfortable to be themselves, Heather Cairns, 24 year-old McMurry graduate. Whether it is seeing her kindergartens learn to clap to a beat or teaching her older students how to play a recorder,  Heather loves to “see the growth and progress” in each student and “the impression that she has left on them.”

Heather’s musical journey started like many others’ do, singing in the church choir. Seeing the Revolution Strings perform inspired her to join the orchestra in middle school, where she played double bass and viola in orchestra. She also participated in choir for 1 year during middle school. She started college originally as a nursing major but after doing observations of Mann Middle School Orchestra, she decided that teaching music is where she wanted to be. Due to encouragement from one of her teachers at McMurry, she started to sing, which led to her getting her degree in Vocal Performance. Her freshman year, Heather received an opportunity that few ever receive; she sang and played double bass with other students at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  She performed in the Addams Family Musical as one of the ancestors in 2021 at McMurry and in 2023, she saw one of her students perform in the Addams Family Junior Musical. 

Her career at Bonham started in 2023 and in a short time she has accomplished so much. She restarted the choir program for 3rd to 5th graders in November 2023. The choir will be performing a pops concert at the end of April. The 3rd graders also have a Barnyard Moosical coming up in a few weeks. She is hoping to restart an afterschool program for the kids to learn and play ukulele as well. Bonham is set to celebrate its 70th Anniversary, where the children will perform various songs from past decades commemorating the occasion.

For parents who want to encourage music in their children, Heather gives plenty of options. Parents can get music toys such as little drum sets and keyboards or take them to a playground such as Rose Park that has outdoor instruments like a giant xylophone. The playground instruments are good for kids because “they are durable so kids can play hard on them.” The important thing with kids Heather states is “let them learn, encourage them to keep at it and have fun with it.”  Heather has a great understanding for children. “Kids have bad days too. They are still learning how to regulate their emotions and their bodies. They need people to let them know that their feelings are valid. Music is a fun and comfortable outlet for them.” 

Heather’s future holds much in store. Besides her plans to continue to grow the music program at Bonham, she plans to attend the Kodály program at Texas Tech, which focuses on the Kodály approach to teaching children about music. The website for the program quotes Zoltan Kodály on his view on teaching children, “Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime.” Heather also plans to get her masters in the future in either Vocal Performance or Music Education. No matter what the future holds in store for her, it is clear that she has made a definite impact on the children she teaches and will continue to do so wherever the music takes her. 

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