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Student Story: Tanatchaya Chanphanitpornkit

She sat on the stage, in front of the building’s Renaissance Revival style auditorium. Grandeur, red seats—she probably leaned the large, low-pitched instrument close to her, sloping her shoulders as she turned inward toward the double bass.

It’s a stance all too familiar for bassist, educator and Music and Music Education student Tanatchaya (“Tanya”) Chanphanitpornkit. The double bass clinician for Region XI of the Texas Music Educators Association first fell in love with music when she was playing with the New Jersey Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall. During that particular performance, Tanya was playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5,” a piece originally written during Stalin’s reign of the former Soviet Union. The piece became one of his most famous and well-received: the composer received an ovation that lasted over an hour.

Tanya, who is now a teacher within the Klein Independent School District Fifth Grade Strings Program in Klein, Texas, recalled exactly how and why her love for the bass came about.

“I remember playing the final note and completely falling in love with the bass,” she says. “From that moment on, I wanted to help others be able to experience their own special moment of being in love.”

This love, or “moment of crystallization” as she calls it, is what eventually led her to Teachers College, Columbia University’s Summer Intensive Master of Arts in Music and Music Education program. But music wasn’t always at the forefront of Tanya’s educational journey. At a young age, she and her mother moved from the U.S. to the rural town of Trat in Thailand—a province that borders the Cardamom Mountains near Cambodia.

The move also made Tanya intimately familiar with the importance of educational equity: at one time, she was banned from attending school.

Opportunities in education can be very limited in the area: According to the World Bank, in 2015, 47% of 15-year-old students who attended village schools in rural Thailand, were classified as being functionally illiterate.

“I was three years old and only spoke English,” she says. “Because I did not speak Thai, I was banned from entering the only school in Trat.”

This was the first time she recalls seeing her mother cry.

Tanya and her mother subsequently moved to Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, so that Tanya could receive an education. Her experience in Thailand schools provided a deep appreciation of educational excellence and how it cultivates success in growing children.

“I studied diligently to have a better fundamental knowledge with which to succeed later in life.”

For Tanya, “later in life” came quickly, and at the age of 10, she made the trek back to the U.S. It was then that the bassist was introduced to music and subsequently began on a path that would later lead to TC.

“I was impressed with the educational equity given to each and every student through access to free public education. This excellent public education introduced me to the double bass.”

The Eastman School of Music graduate, who is also the orchestra director of Klein High School in Texas, now helps other young musicians experience moments that may lead to a lifelong love of music.

“I absolutely love music, and I want to impart that gift onto young generations.”

Her love for sound is imparted through her teaching. Currently in her second year teaching, she holds a particular interest in music learning theories—especially in instrumental music. She plans to further her research on how students learn instrumental music so that she and other music educators can give students the best tools to be able to perform well.

So far, Teachers College has helped Tanya to do just that: further her research and progress in her pedagogical skills. The Music and Music Education program at TC allows Tanya to develop and strengthen music teaching tools—and gives her the ability to still teach in Texas. The flexibility of the Summer Intensive program’s structure will let Tanya finish her degree by taking four-week courses over several summers, while she takes online classes during the year.

“The one thing that I love about teaching is that in this profession, teachers are always growing,” she says. “Whether it’s ‘with the times,’ with the students, or simply new ways of teaching, there is always something fresh and new. I love the idea that as a professional, I will always grow and it will never get static.”

For Tanya, being at Teachers College has helped her cultivate those ideas—especially in regards to its professional learning community.

“TC has been an amazing resource for learning. As a relatively new teacher, seeing my colleagues consistently strive to be better has been an incredible inspiration for me.”

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