Jane Koopman, Lawrence sightsinging instructor, passes away

Maija Anstine

The Lawrence community mourns the loss of Jane Koopman, former sightsinging instructor at Lawrence, who passed away Dec. 30, 2009, at the age of 80.
Born in Rochester, Ind., Koopman earned both a bachelor of music degree in education and a master of music degree in education at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She taught at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wis. before coming to Appleton as an elementary school teacher where she taught for more than 20 years.
Koopman taught at Lawrence between 1990 and 2000, teaching every music major in a five-term sequence for most of the decade. She developed a sightsinging curriculum that is still taught in the conservatory today by current sightsinging instructor Donna DiBella, who explains that she has largely patterned her own classes after Koopman’s.
“Students who have taken or are currently taking sightsinging may find this all sounding very familiar, since I have largely patterned my classes after Jane’s,” said DiBella. “I feel so fortunate and grateful for having had the opportunity to emulate her style and can’t imagine teaching any other way.”
Koopman also contributed to the music education program at Lawrence as an elementary specialist, emphasizing the Kodály method.
Koopman is survived by her husband, John, who also taught at Lawrence, as well as their three children and four grandchildren.
Some of Koopman’s former colleagues shared their memories of her:
“In the fall of ’96 I was to begin teaching a few sightsinging sections, and so, in the spring I sat in on a number of Jane Koopman’s classes. I was struck by her warmth and the “cozy” feel of the classroom with the plants — MD 146 — and hanging quilts — Jane was an enthusiastic quilter — and how once or twice a year she would bring in a batch of her “health bars” for the students. Desks were arranged in a circle so no student could hide and everyone felt on equal par. She had as much fun coaching the most challenged students as she did singing modulatory Bach chorales with the most advanced. And periodically other faculty in the MD wing would hear students practicing duets in the hallway prior to performing them in class or having a blast singing ‘The Frog’ canon.”
–Donna DiBella, instructor of music
“I don’t know of any other faculty member who touched every student in that way. She was friendly, patient, yet persistent. And Jane even held ‘extra’ classes for those singers who had passed the minimum requirement, but not sufficiently mastered sight singing for as long as they were willing to continue working on it. I know of an instance of a soprano, who was terrified of sight singing when she arrived, and even through several tearful attempts to pass her exam for the voice faculty. However, she took all of Jane’s generous extra instruction until she finally passed sight singing here in her senior year. The next year in graduate school in Kansas she was hired as the sightsinging tutor! That is but one illustration of how Jane’s teaching had a huge impact on the students’ development and abilities.”
–Kenneth Bozeman, Frank C. Shattuck professor of music
“I remember how Jane was the first one among us to know every student by name, really getting to know them and to appreciate their personalities, abilities, quirks. She followed their Conservatory careers with delight after the theory sequence was long ended, and that freshman experience was often noted by students as a very significant part of their development. How wonderful that every single music major had this long exposure [of] three to five terms to one of the best and most enthusiastic public school music educators, and had the opportunity to model themselves on her gifts and commitment. One last thing: Students will perhaps remember that they were treated to a “health bar” after their final exam in sightsinging — a Special K bar made with peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch chips!”
–Nancy Stowe, former dean of the Conservatory

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