Faith and Fiddles: Orchestra Teacher and Violinist Katelyn Cashwell

Katelyn Cashwell grew up in Hudsonville, Michigan, and began playing violin in 4th grade. While in high school, she had the opportunity to perform with the Unity Christian High School at the Michigan Music Conference and teach under Sara VandePol Jager. After graduating in 2008, she went on to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and studied conducting under Robert Nordling; John Varineau, former conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony; Dr. Joel Navarro; and Dr. Tiffany Engle. While at Calvin College, she performed with the Calvin College Orchestra, with whom she toured frequently, including to China in 2010. In 2017, Katelyn received her Masters in Music Education from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago, IL.

Katelyn moved to Fayetteville, NC in 2013 and currently teaches at Massey Hill Classical High School. Professionally, she performs with the Snyder Memorial Baptist Church orchestra, as well as at weddings and private events. She also teaches violin and viola privately from her home.

Katelyn is married to her husband of almost 2 years, Ryan Cashwell. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family and friends.

3 Things making your life richer and why: Without my faith, my life would not be rich at all. During such uncertain times, God is the one thing I can trust to stay the same. 

My husband makes my life richer. He has always been my biggest supporter when it comes to my art. He comes to every performance for me individually and for my students. He also helps me enjoy life. We live very close to Downtown Fayetteville and he is always encouraging me to enjoy the local shops and restaurants.

My students make my life so rich! They are constantly asking questions and want to try new things. They work so hard at everything I put in front of them. They keep me laughing every day and make me want to come to work. 

Local Artist you admire: While they are not local, they have begun to visit North Carolina quite a bit. The Moxie Strings is a fiddle group based out of Michigan. They travel around the country teaching students fiddle pieces by rote and how to improvise. I met them when I was a student and have had them come work with my students here in North Carolina. What I love most about The Moxie Strings is that they are able to help students open up. I have seen students who I struggled with having them play in class, play in front of an audience of parents! They are amazing!

Current artistic experiments: I am currently working with my students to prepare them for a life of performance. One of the ways I am doing this is by teaching them to play in alternate clefs. A lot of the time, as a professional musician, you will be handed music that is not written for your instrument. By teaching them these alternate clefs, I can help my students be able to play anything handed to them. I also try to have them play some sort of syncopated music during the year because a lot of the pop tunes couples want for their wedding are all syncopated. Anything I do with my students lately has been to prepare them for the outside world of music.

Personal practice informs your teaching or visa versa: I have learned through my professional career that the music I play now is not like the music I played in orchestra in school. One of my favorite experiences in high school was playing in our musical pit. It taught me the unexpected moments in music and how to watch a conductor. I love that I am able to give my students the same opportunity at Massey Hill Classical High School with our theatre department.

Favorite way to share artistic history with your students: I recently discovered the book Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day by Clemency Burton-Hill. It has a classical music piece for each day of the year. Each morning, while students are entering the classroom, I have the piece for the day playing. We then read the excerpt from the book. We have all learned about so many new pieces and I love when they come back to me and ask if we can play those pieces.

What do you want for your arts students? I want my students to feel loved and cared for. I want music to be a place where they feel safe. I want music to be a release for them. 

If you could teach anything using your art form what would it be? I love fiddle music! I love that most of the time it is taught by ear so students really have to listen to the music and figure it out. It also allows for creativity with improvisation. I could teach a whole class on fiddling and improvisation!

Kevin Ward: Tooting His Horn

From Low Brass to Army Brass to the Classroom, Ward is making a difference.

Art-form teachers tend to wear a lot of hats. Kevin Ward, Max Abbott Middle School Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 school year, has a full rack: he teaches orchestra at the middle school, is an adjunct professor at Methodist University, and arranges sheet music for Lindsey Sterling. On top of that, he promised his Mom, who passed away in 2018, that he’d continue his education, which he’s doing by pursuing a doctorate in curriculum instruction. “I want to have a huge dash on my tombstone. I want to make sure I’m making a difference,” Ward bashfully shares.

We sat down in the MAMS cafeteria recently to talk about middle school orchestra and his path from the Army to the classroom. After playing around the world, he wound up in Fayetteville as his last duty post. A few months prior to retiring in 2017, the MAMS orchestra teacher position opened up. “I was very interested, but couldn’t commit because I wasn’t finished in the Army yet,” Ward explained. “Mrs. Crenshaw [MAMS Principal] called me again in November and said, “Well, the teacher we hired didn’t work out, so the position is open if you still want it.”” Now he was out of the Army and could tackle the challenge of a middle-school orchestra program. This school year, he took the orchestra to the NC Music Educator’s Association Music Performance Adjudication contest in Raleigh for the first time in seven years. He had eight students chosen by audition for the Junior Eastern Region Orchestra. Some of his students play with the Fayetteville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

photo provided by Kevin Ward

Arranging music began in the Army. “I had to think outside the box about these arrangements” because of the potentially random assortments of instruments a particular performance might have. He did over 350 arrangements and compositions for the Army; it was through this work he met Lindsey Sterling. “I wanted to arrange a piece of hers for our holiday concert, so asked her permission. She liked the work I did so much, she asked me to do more.” It helps that he enjoys listening to a wide variety of music, from more traditional orchestral pieces to the crossover electronica of Sterling to harder rock.

Ward’s favorite instrument is the tuba and he also plays trumpet, french horn, and euphonium. Photo provided by Kevin Ward.

At heart, his genuine care for his students shines through. He’s researching the cognitive benefits of musical education for middle school students. He is actively fundraising for new chairs for his classroom on, the sort of equipment cost that will make a huge difference for the students but the school system is not able to budget for. He is still teaching privately at Music and Arts on Morganton Road. His work on the Methodist University campus alerts him to opportunities for his middle school students, like the summer youth camps.

There is no doubt Ward is making a difference, for both his students and his fellow musicians. He would love for his next career step to be County Arts Coordinator for the entire school system. No doubt he’ll be able to make an even bigger, even better difference in such a role.