Kids music

Jennifer Nichol gives children music as a refuge

Until Grade 11, Jennifer Nicol was convinced she wanted to be a pediatrician. However, music was her passion and she couldn’t see herself giving it up. So she decided on a career that would eventually lead her to become a music teacher at Ubly Community Schools.

Nicol graduated from Laker High School in 1997 and Central Michigan University in 2001. From there, she worked as a student teacher in the sixth-grade classroom in the Unionville-Sebewaing School District.

She worked there part-time until 2002, when she filled an opening for music teacher Ubly in the second half of the semester, a position she has held ever since.

Nicol teaches music appreciation and exploration classes, as well as several bands, for children in grades 6-12. This range of middle and high school students is one of the things Nicol loves about his job.

“The most rewarding part for me is watching them mature and grow, as a musician and as a person,” she said.

She likes being able to build a relationship with the students over the eight consecutive years, rather than assigning them to a new teacher each year.

The most frustrating thing for her, however, is not always being able to help a struggling student. She can impart all the wisdom she can, but sometimes it’s impossible to dissuade a teenager from thinking that their current struggles will last forever. It’s hard to watch, even though Nicol knows it has to happen.

“They also have to experience these struggles themselves,” she admitted.

However, it is because of these struggles that she is passionate about the musical education of her students.

Nicol rarely does the same track two years in a row, but instead chooses music that will compliment and celebrate the band’s strengths that year.

“Maybe I have a stellar soloist that year and I show them, but I also cover new skills every year, so it doesn’t get repetitive and boring for the kids,” she explained. .

In addition to sheet music, his classes study musicals. They look at the struggles the characters have and talk about how they connect to the students’ lives or if the characters could have done something different.

It is this emotional and intellectual connection with music that Nicol wishes to leave to his students once they graduate.

“I realized that not all the kids in my program would continue their music education after high school, but I want them to have music as a coping technique after high school,” she said.

If she’s not there to help their students through something they’re going through, she wants to make sure they know they can turn to music.

This story was featured as part of our annual Teachers and Healers special section, which recognizes people working in the Upper Thumb medical and education industries.