Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni of the Kodály Music Institute:

Bartolome Color Headshot

Mary Epstein interviewed Dr. Sarah Bartolome on June 10, 2015

Mary: When did you graduate from KMI ?

Sarah: 9 years ago. I finished my Kodály Music Teaching certification in 2006 from the Kodály Music Institute when it was located at New England Conservatory.

Mary: What are you doing now?

Sarah: This spring I was tenured at Louisiana State University where for the last 6 years I have taught on its music education faculty.

Mary: What are your plans this fall?

Sarah: I will be taking a new position as Assistant Professor of Music Education at Northwestern University. The university has shortened the tenure process from the normal six to a two-year review making for an intense two years for me. Fortunately, I have collected a lot of research data. I am so happy to return to my alma mater in this capacity.

Mary: Oh, so you are a Northwestern University graduate?

Sarah: Yes, I did the one year master’s degree in music education where I studied with Maude Hickey and Steve Demorest.

Mary: Peter Webster was there too.

Sarah: Yes, he mentored me and sent to study with Patsy Campbell.

Mary: Patricia Sheehan Campbell at University of Washington?

Sarah: Yes, in Seattle. I had a teaching assistantship and taught 2 days at an elementary school, which provided a lab setting for UW students. I also had a private voice studio and conducted for the Seattle Girls Choir. As a future college professor,

“I wanted sufficient experience to provide a solid background for beginning teachers.”

Mary: And your undergraduate education?

Sarah: Ithaca College. My main instrument was voice. I pursued a double major in voice and music education.

Mary: Please describe your research interests and dissertation.

Sarah: My dissertation is an ethnographic study of the Seattle Girls Choir – its culture of music making in the choral context and global perspective and its perceived benefits. I have been in interested in why people engage in choral music making. I often collect children’s songs and games for example from Panama, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Lithuania. I have studied my own elementary students and now university students. As a 2013 Fulbright scholar, I studied local boys choirs in Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Lithuania. At the university I have continued this line of research in music teacher preparation asking how students transfer into first year of teaching? My latest study is on teacher evaluation and practices coming from current evaluation.

Mary: What was your childhood music education like?

Sarah: As a child music was always playing in our house and car. My dad’s taste in music was the Beattles and rock; my dad is a guitarist and mom a pianist. My parents don’t consider themselves musicians but are music lovers. They went to Broadway shows in New York City and supported me in all my pursuits.

On Saturday morning Mom and I went out for muffins. When I was age 4 Mom asked if I wanted to take piano. I answered yes. Mom asked Mrs. Menard, the school music teacher and she became my first piano teacher. I played recorder and violin in the 2nd grade and played violin throughout high school in chamber music, the chamber orchestra and the orchestra.   We did not have choir in elementary and middle school but I often sang solos. In North Bedford High School I sang in all the choirs: SATB, non auditioned, mixed, more select. I am a functional pianist and can accompany my own choirs. I am pretty good with recorder.

Mary: What is your family heritage?

Sarah: I don’t have a cultural identity. My dad is half Portuguese; we ate Portuguese food. Part of my interest in multicultural music happened at Northwestern University studying ethnomusicology with Steven Hill doing some basic readings. I didn’t know much and had no background.

“There’s something here I should explore.”  

When I started teaching in Norwood, I wanted to teach African drumming…..”Hm…I guess I’ll have to go to Africa. My first trip was in Ghana where Jeremy Cohen goes now …..

Well before he was there. I went as an independent traveler, spent 3 weeks learning singing and dancing. Going to study with Pat Campbell was an aspiration. I had no personal inroads into multicultural music.

Mary: At the Kodály Music Institute, I noticed you danced well, especially the African American folk dances.

Sarah: Yes, I recall studying with Frankie and Doug Quimby, the Georgia Sea Island Singers and dancing with them. I have always danced. From the age 2 on up, I studied dance taking formal lessons until high school when drama interfered. Even in college I danced. In Lithuania I folk danced as well as sang. Dancing been a thread from childhood to today.

 Mary:   Why did you want to study at the Kodály Music Institute?

Sarah:   I am a lifelong learner person – to better myself. I was looking for a summer program. At the time the Massachusetts Department of Education was offering full scholarships at KMI. I knew I wanted to pursue Orff or Kodály. I was living in Dorchester…..the timing, scholarship, interest in folk music. After seeing the pedagogy I knew I would pursue all the levels. In thinking about KMI it sparked my interest in folk dance.Before KMI I looked at Jump Jim Joe. I shied away from the ones that didn’t have singing. Learning folk dance from pages is a little challenging.

Mary: So you taught in public school?

Sarah: Yes, I taught K-5 and at the kindergarten center for four years in the Norwood Public Schools. It was an amazing job. Third graders studied recorder, did a musical, and there were graduation, winter, and spring concerts for recorder. I worked with Cathy Moen who in my 3rd year she moved to the administrative position (Visual and Performing Arts Supervisor). I also taught high school voice lessons and coached high school musicals. I was also singing with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, had a church job at the United Methodist in Wellesley, and taught theory for the Greater Boston Youth Chorus. Then I started conducting Youth Pro Musica training choir. “All roads lead to Rome.”

Mary: I see that you teach in the Seattle Kodály Program.

Sarah: Yes. I teach musicianship Levels I, II, III. You may remember that on my first day at KMI, I was placed in Level III solfege for three years. I base my work with Gabor Viragh’s teaching. He developed her ears and sight-singing skills. Ithaca College used moveable doh but the minor was do-re-me. When doing dictation, my ears hear both Kodály minor (la-ti-do) and the do-re-me minor.

Mary: Thank you so much Sarah. Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you would like to say to future KMI participants?


“I am grateful for KMI. The pedagogical foundation in Zoltán Kodály is unparalleled. The repertoire and pedagogical skills influenced my teaching, personal musicianship, long term career perspective; so many are looking for specialization in Kodaly or Dalcroze – it was marketable. I would have never known that 10 years ago. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong but the resources and skills you get are totally worth it.”

 Dr. Sarah Bartolome’s educational background:

  • Acushnet MA Elementary Schools
  • North Bedford MA High School
  • Ithaca College – B.M.
  • Kodaly Music Institute, 2006 Kodaly Certificate
  • Northwestern University, M.M.
  • University of Washington, Ph.D.