Lawrence alums teach music in Abu Dhabi

Tammy Tran

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ann Melzer)

After leaving the Lawrence bubble, Elizabeth Melzer ’09, Dan Miles ’10 and Chris Roebuck ’09 went on to pursue music education careers in the Middle East. These three Lawrence alums set off for Abu Dhabi, each taking on different paths, but remaining Lawrentians at heart.

ELIZABETH MELZER —Music Education ‘09

Lawrence extracurricular activities:

Cantala, Kappa Alpha Theta, women’s soccer

How have your experiences at Lawrence helped to shape who you are today?

The education I gained at Lawrence has allowed me to succeed in Abu Dhabi. The music education faculty facilitated the competence, confidence, and creativity that permeate my teaching. In addition to the fantastic foundation of pedagogical practice, Lawrence provided me with two other very important gifts: the ability to be flexible and the ability to manage stressful situations with grace, both of which I use daily.

How did you make your way to Abu Dhabi?

While I was living in London, I was looking for work and received an email from a school in Abu Dhabi. My first thought was, “Where in the world is Abu Dhabi?” Four months later, I was getting off the plane in the United Arab Emirates.

What are you currently working on?

I teach preschool through fifth grade. My focus is on general music, choir and introducing a violin program. I also direct the annual musical and coach soccer. Most recently, my boss came to me for a performance in about a month. The result: 130 kids singing for former President Bill Clinton and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Plans for the future:

I plan on teaching internationally for a while. It is fabulous working with Dan and Chris, but the time will come for all of us to move on, so I will go teach wherever the wind blows me!

Memorable anecdotes from Abu Dhabi:

U.A.E. National Day is a huge celebration here — think the Fourth of July plus New Years with camel racing thrown in. At school we celebrate with cultural games, food and activities from around the U.A.E. Drummers and dancers perform, cooks make fresh traditional food, artists do henna. This year, I remember walking outside and seeing a camel in the long jump pit. Only in the U.A.E.!

DAN MILES —Music Education, Clarinet Performance ‘10

Lawrence extracurricular activities:

Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, ORC

How have your experiences at Lawrence helped to shape who you are today?

I have had to be very adaptable. I have no idea what is going to be thrown at me from one moment to another. I spent six weeks teaching a “band” class in the library without instruments and another six weeks in a testing room. I have these world-class technology studios that I am still figuring out how to use. I am constantly learning how to do new things. I use the critical thinking skills we learned in classes, every single day.

How did you make your way to Abu Dhabi?

I was looking for a job — trust me Lawrentians, stay in school as long as you can! — and Elizabeth called me up and said, “Hey, I need someone to teach band.” I said “yes,” but it was a total leap of faith.

What are you currently working on?

I teach middle school band and co-teach grades four and five with Beth. When people ask me what my typical day is, I start laughing at them. On any given day, I could be in a design meeting with big corporate guys in suits, to sixth grade band, to pounding nails in a construction zone, to eigth grade band. It can be pretty crazy.

Plans for the future:

I have four music rooms, two recording studios, two green screens, a Mac lab and a music technology studio, basically premier music facilities and wonderful students, so no real reason to leave anytime soon.

Memorable anecdotes from Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi is a crazy place. The only word you need to understand is “Inshallah.” It means, “If God wills it.” This could be applied to whether or not it will rain or if a guy will show up at some undetermined point in the future to hook up your internet. Basically, a man could be in cardiac arrest, and doctors would say, “We’ll take care of him, Inshallah.”

CHRIS ROEBUCK—Vocal Performance, Music Education ‘09

Lawrence extracurricular activities:

Concert Choir and Beta Theta Pi

How have your experiences at Lawrence helped to shape who you are today?

Lawrence provided a foundation that allows me to be successful in my profession. I was particularly enriched by the music education staff. Without them, I would not be the teacher I am today. They shaped the way I lead a classroom and the way I approach a piece of music. Lawrence is where I met my current colleagues, and without the mutual respect and trust that Lawrence instilled in us, I surely wouldn’t be here.

How did you make your way to Abu Dhabi?

I came to Abu Dhabi on Elizabeth’s recommendation. The bond we created as students at Lawrence started a conversation between us when a position opened up at her school. I am forever grateful for her friendship and faith in my abilities as a teacher, which Lawrence nurtured.

What are you currently working on?

I am teaching general music at an early year’s school with children ranging from three to nine years. I am also part of the School Leadership team.

Plans for the future:

I would eventually like to continue my education and return to the states to complete a master’s degree program. However, the adventurous lifestyle in Abu Dhabi is invigorating both socially and professionally.

Memorable anecdotes from Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi is rich with people from other cultures. The multicultural experience here is extremely valuable. I remember stepping off the plane fresh from the States. One of the guys who met me at the airport said, “Oh, by the way, it is a little warm out.” That is to be expected in a desert climate. I walked out of the airport and was met with a heat that nearly dropped me. It was upwards of 115 degrees. The kicker: I arrived at 10 p.m.

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ann Melzer)

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ann Melzer)

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