Music Professor Inspires Learning Inside the Classroom and Out

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Grebel professor Laura Gray with a studentThe high value Laura Gray places on her students is obvious inside the classroom and out. Laura is associate professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo, serving as chair of the Music Department for nine of her 22 years at Grebel. Students who take courses with her are impacted not only by the passion she has for the subject matter, but also by the care she takes to build relationships and invite respect among those she teaches.

Stephanie Collings, a fourth-year Music and Business student, has enjoyed Laura’s music history classes. She said these courses encouraged her to think about and appreciate musical works from eras she had not previously examined. Stephanie commented that Laura’s teaching inspires those taking her class to engage with the concepts discussed, as she places importance on hearing her students’ opinions and reflections. “Her lecture style is a perfect balance of engaging and informative, with a few jokes thrown in to make it entertaining and light-hearted.”

Listening to what students have to say goes beyond lecture material. One of the in-class moments that Mykayla Turner fondly remembered, took place during a stressful time of year. “Laura prefaced her class by asking students how they were doing.” She said Laura’s concern for her students is genuine. “It was so comforting to have a professor acknowledge how we were feeling, and express care and concern for us before diving into her lecture!” Mykayla shared that this is just one example of Laura going beyond what is expected of a professor.

“Laura is a strong advocate for local concerts and music performances, inspiring her students to learn outside of the classroom,” Mykayla added. On one occasion, Mykayla had the opportunity to attend the Royal Conservatory of Music’s University Fair with Laura as a student ambassador. This gave her the opportunity “to see how Laura’s knowledge of music and openness towards others combined and manifested in settings beyond the classroom.”

As a scholar who has earned a Bachelor’s degree at Western, a Master’s at the University of British Columbia, and a Doctorate at Yale, Laura is highly knowledgeable and accomplished in her instruction. Yet, she continues to listen to and care about what her students have to say, both in class and wherever else she meets them. Mykayla explained that “Laura has the gift of making people feel competent, capable, and valued, such that her students are well equipped for their future endeavours.” Laura is one of the first people she thinks of who truly wants her students to succeed. “She cheers her students on and goes beyond teaching in her support for them.”

Students have been known to fall in love with the topics that Laura teaches, even if they were previously unfamiliar with them. She explained that she considers it a privilege to share new styles with her students. “Instructing is not about me, it’s about students encountering this music and how it might impact them.”

Laura shared that she loves the openness of students as they add new music to their sound pool. She has noted the transformation new music exposure can bring in her MUSIC 256: Music Since 1900 class. “I’ve seen some students who are really changed by it. They change the whole course of their career after encountering this music that was so inspiring to them.” She also enjoys watching students “open up to the idea of sounds having meaning to them,” and hearing the stories this inspires in the MUSIC 333: Music and Landscape seminar. Students in any program can take Laura’s Music in Cultural Contexts (MUSIC110) course. This course introduces music from around the world and throughout history as a reflection of social and cultural contexts.

By Elizabeth Robertson

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