Hailing from Kansas and holding degrees from Vanderbilt University (BM – Cello Performance), University of Notre Dame (MM – Cello Performance and Literature), and Fort Hays State University (MSEd – Education), Music Department Head, Sarah Dorian brings her breadth of classical talent back to the Wasatch Academy music program.
Dorian has been a member of several orchestras including the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony, and Northwest Indian Symphony Orchestra to name a few. She has a fresh approach to music education and provides an environment for aspiring musicians to stretch their comfort levels and excel at exceptional rates.
We wanted to get to know Dorian a little more including what she enjoys about teaching music, the challenges she has overcome as a music teacher, and a few fun facts about this outstanding department head.
Give a little background information: where are you from, the classes you teach, the hobbies you enjoy, etc.
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. My cousin (from Wichita) is a 4-year senior from Wasatch! I teach vocal ensemble, piano, and orchestra (mostly I teach passion for music and passion for learning!). My son, Briggs is a senior at Wasatch. We have a rescue Bengal cat named Bentley.
How did you find a passion for music and being a performer?
I am the youngest of four siblings – all of my siblings are fabulous musicians. As I grew up, it was never ‘I wonder if I’ll play music’ it was, ‘what will I play?’ I played the violin for about two years when I was 3 to 4 years old, started the piano when I was 5 and found MY instrument at 6 1/2 when I started the cello. Actually, here’s the story…
I played the violin at age 3 when we lived in Idaho. My brother and sister also played the violin. My sister was so advanced she had two lessons a week, working on sonatas and concertos. When we moved to Wichita, Kansas when I was 4 years old, my mother stretched the truth and said that my brother and sister took the last violin teachers in the city! So, I wouldn’t be able to keep playing the violin. (Translation: I was not very good and my parents were looking for a break).
By kindergarten, I got to start the piano. In my family, each of us played “Piano and …?” Though never highly skilled at the piano, I’ve continued to play.
As I was choosing my “And” instrument, I really (really, really) wanted to play the flute. I guess my mom would have rathered I play the cello as she changed our seats/tickets at the symphony to ones directly in front of the cello section. I went to every single cello recital and special cello concert that year. So, by the time I could start an instrument, I could only talk about how cool the cello was! My mom must have somehow known that I was meant to be a cellist, as it has always been my special voice.
I followed my brother and sister around to all their performances, joined the performing ensembles they were in (professional, youth symphony), started attending summer music camp by age nine – continuing every year through college (including Interlochen, Brevard and Aspen Music Festivals). I was part of All-State Orchestra and went to college and graduate school on full music scholarships (Vanderbilt, then Notre Dame). I was a member of the South Bend, Northwest Indiana, and Kalamazoo Symphonies and the Esquire String Quartet for many years. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t performing, teaching, and gigging. Music is just how I think and express myself.
What do you love most about teaching music?
I love the connections you make as a musician and the way you can uniquely communicate through your instrument. Anyone can play an instrument, but when you play, it is like your voice, it sounds like you. I love the way one can communicate while playing – with other performers and the audience – I love how by playing music you have a community of other people who create music.
Who are you inspired by and why?
Every day I am inspired by the music I hear whether this is a Yo Yo Ma recording (like his current Silk Road Project) or the fantastic students I hear at the Wasatch Academy Conservatory, including my son on the viola or his digital audio music, or Faith’s amazing voice especially singing the first song she wrote, or Roki singing one of her original pieces or Changer in French. All the students inspire me! I am always thinking about how to create and how to help students find their individual voice and work towards mastery.
What do you look forward to creating with the music program at Wasatch Academy? What are your goals?
I am so excited about the collaborations our students are making with traditional classical music and contemporary music. I am excited for our students to keep developing and growing as musicians – opening new doors for them as they find where the future will take them. My goal is to have a program that is open and available to all the students at Wasatch – no matter their level of skill or commitment – while offering the foundations for students to go on to major in music in college.
What do you think is the most challenging part of teaching music? How do you overcome it?
Oh, that’s easy. There’s never enough time to do everything you want for your students! To overcome it, I work with Matt Harding and he helps bear the load, and then I clone myself so we can make sure to offer everything possible to our students!
What has been your greatest success as a teacher?
I am so proud of my previous and current students. Many have achieved so much! But I would have to say my greatest success is keeping the love of music alive in students. Watching them continue to create music for the rest of their lives is so rewarding! Each of them is making the world a better place!
What is one of your most proud performer moments?
That’s tough. As the master violinist Pinchas Zukermann says, “whatever I’m doing right now!” As performers, we give everything we have to each project and are so invested in everything we do. Some favorite moments were the times I had the opportunity to be the concerto soloist with an orchestra – it’s amazing to sit in front of an orchestra with your cello and perform! Such an all-encompassing experience. My favorite type of music has always been chamber music so performing in string quartets and piano trios are some of the most meaningful moments for me as a musician.
What is your favorite genre of music? Why?
Ha! This one is funny! I love Classical music (especially Beethoven, Stravinksy, Elgar, Prokofiev), but I also love (with all my heart and soul) Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash! I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. I am amazed by the music written for movies and video games, and next to chamber music, my favorite music to play are operas and musicals! I love the complexity and beauty of Classical music. I love the unique phrasing and grit of Willie, Kris, and Johnny. I love that both Bob’s shaped generations. And I can listen to movie, game, opera, and musical music for hours and they all tell us the story in the themes and melodies of their music. I guess I do not really have a favorite!
What is a fun fact about you that someone might not know?
There are funny music facts like when I play with a Click Track (which means having a headset only on one ear, so you can hear yourself play with the other ear) my eyes water! I cannot handle hearing only half of either and it throws off my hearing, balance, and I just start crying…it makes for fun recording sessions!
Fun personal fact…I grew up in Kansas and we raised a herd of bison. Those suckers are smart! The bull would break down the regular fence and step on top of the electric fence so the herd could get out!
How do you recharge your batteries so that you can keep giving your best to the students of Wasatch?
I love reading, watching movies, and hiking! I try to find time to make music with friends and perform when possible.
Wasatch Academy is a special place. I walk around campus and the place is breathtakingly beautiful. I love every face I get to see. I feel lucky to be here and lucky to be part of the amazing Performing Arts Team!