Katie Koenning '18

A Direct Path to Teaching

Katie attributes landing her dream job teaching 5-12 school orchestra in a welcoming, highly supportive school district to her graduating with a music major from Luther. “I spent the following summer working at a day camp and started my first year of teaching that fall,” she says. “I'm wrapping up my second year and I love it. I hope to have a long career as an orchestra teacher.”

Quality Experiences Sold Her on Luther

“I chose Luther because it had a high quality, touring orchestra,” says Katie. “I couldn't believe that I could participate in an ensemble that performed in Vienna.”

She also had a very welcoming experience with her music scholarship audition and campus tour. “I value a campus where participation in an ensemble is accommodated and encouraged,” she says. “Music is a common thread for so many people at Luther and it's a wonderful way for a first-year student to meet people.”

Challenges and Participation Make a Big Impact

Katie appreciates how Luther taught her how to perform under the high standards of her field. “I was consistently challenged like I never had been before in my performances and assignments,” she says. “This turned out to be invaluable as I help my students face challenges now. It's easier to empathize with those who are struggling to learn a new skill when I remember how hard I had to work to learn the tuba or sight sing.”

Another major experience for Katie was her participation in Christmas at Luther. “It was bittersweet to go back this December and hear the concert without getting to perform, but it came full circle because I got to see a former student play in the Luther College Symphony Orchestra.”

Preparation for Her Career

Authentic student teaching experiences and experienced faculty have played a key role in Katie’s first years of teaching.

“My January Term classroom experiences and student teaching were my favorites,” she says. “My first J-Term was with a grade 5-12 school orchestra and it turned out to be a very realistic look into my future,” Katie says, “Moving instruments between buildings, adjusting teaching to different age groups, and other daily tasks were foreshadowed. The advice from faculty with experience in school music settings was absolutely invaluable. There is a lot to learn about being a music teacher besides playing the notes, and many of my professors were eager to help with anything from budgeting a program to teaching folk dances for third graders (my high school students LOVED them even more).”

Advice for Current Students

For those considering the field of music, Katie encourages them to know their "why" and keep a growth mindset. “Hold tight to a goal or reason for pursuing a music major and expect to be imperfect along the way,” she says. “I was challenged more than I ever thought I would be, but I knew at the end of the day I would be another step closer to my dream of teaching orchestra.”

Katie also encourages prospective music majors to lean into non-music classes. She says, “Some of my most important lessons came from classes, jobs, and experiences well outside my major.”

Her Co-Curriculars at Luther:

Work Study Helps Develop Valuable Skills

“I worked in Oneota Market for four years and it was wonderful practice for teaching. I developed customer service skills, diplomacy, and learned how to work efficiently under pressure. All of these skills are immeasurably valuable as I develop a program, communicate with parents, and handle a room full of fifty fifth graders holding noise makers.”

—Katie Koenning