Kiel teacher Natasha Verhulst advocates for Native American music
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Published 7:37 a.m. CT Oct. 27, 2019 | Updated 8:28 a.m. CT Oct. 27, 2019
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KIEL – Natasha Verhulst, music teacher at Kiel Middle School, has been recognized as a Feierabend Association of Music Education Spotlight Teacher for her work on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee that is working to revise music curriculum.
FAME was founded in 2012 to share the teachings of Dr. John Feierabend. Feierabend’s music curriculum encourages movement in music education through developmentally appropriate steps and sequencing. The titles of the curriculum include First Steps in Music and Conversational Solfege.
Verhulst graduated from St. Norbert College in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in music education with certification in general, vocal and instrumental music. She is working on her master’s in music education with an emphasis in Kodaly at Holy Family College in Manitowoc, where she is studying under Dr. John Feierabend and the rest of their notable summer program staff.
Natasha Verhulst, Kiel Middle School music teacher. (Photo: Provided)
In September, Verhulst was invited to join the conversation on the committee of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Missy Strong, the current president elect of FAME, has described the DEI committee as “a diverse group of outstanding educators, scholars, and ethnomusicologists (that includes black and indigenous people of color) whose immediate work is two-fold. First, they will develop criteria by which current and future repertoire in First Steps in Music will be evaluated before it is revised and republished by GIA Publications, and they will also work to describe and define what constitutes modern American Folk song in order to ensure that the repertoire contained in Dr. Feierabend’s work truly reflects the diverse students in today’s American classroom.”
Verhulst sits on the DEI committee to help as a resource to include Native music in the curriculum as it is being revised. She is an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, and a descendant of the Menominee Nation. She has always been passionate about including First Nations/Indigenous culture, history and music in education, specifically in the music classroom.
Through her immersion in her culture and traditional practices, and work in her master’s program, Verhulst has found that folk music, which is the main source through Kodaly and Feierabend’s approach, is comparable to indigenous music. These similarities include that they are both passed down orally and have stood the test of time. She describes indigenous music as the original folk music of the United States.
Verhulst’s hope is that all people can experience First Nations music and learn from it so others have a better understanding of the culture, and so young native students can experience a part of their own identity in the music classroom.
Verhulst was to present at the 2019 Wisconsin Music Educators Association Conference for the first time this year on Oct. 25 at the Monona Terrace Conference center in Madison with her cousin Kamewanukiw Paula Rabideaux on this topic. The title of their presentation was “Native American/American Indian Music: How to Approach it in an Authentic Way.” Together, the pair planned to offer resources and lesson plans to educators who are looking for an appropriate way to approach native music in their classrooms.
Verhulst is also serving in the Wisconsin Public Television Education & Wisconsin State Music Association General Music Project Advisory Group to address the need heard from music educators around the state for authentic, current resources that represent the diverse cultures and experiences of Wisconsin’s students.
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