Dr. Shannon Gravelle is the Director of Choral Activities and Music Education Coordinator at Meredith College. She conducts the Meredith Chorale, Chorus and Encore. Dr. Gravelle sat down with The Herald to discuss her educational experience, her hobbies and the wisdom she hopes to share with her students.
Dr. Gravelle knew she wanted to teach choir in eighth grade, which is when her musical journey took off. Dr. Gravelle believes that “choir empowers people to use their voices, whether it is for singing or anything else.” She emphasizes that it is crucial to make her students feel heard and valued and to see her students for who they are because each person has a unique gift to bring, both musically and from their own experiences.
For her undergraduate degree, Dr. Gravelle went to Luther College, a small liberal arts college similar to Meredith. Her college had “a huge music program with seven choirs, three bands and three orchestras, and half the student body was involved in some form of music.” During her time there, she was involved in the music department but also in campus ministries. She was a part of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, as well as multiple music education associations and her senior year, she became president of her college’s chapter of the Future Music Educator Association.
When asked about how she embraces and encourages diversity in her choirs, Dr. Gravelle says that there are multiple ways to approach bringing not just diversity, but also equity to the choir. One way she does this is through repertoire choices, because she says it is important to learn music from all kinds of backgrounds and not just from one because it does not represent the students and their unique experiences. Another way she embraces diversity is by “celebrat[ing] music from different cultures but also treating it as something that should be incorporated.”
Dr. Gravelle chose to be a professor at Meredith because she loves being part of a small community where she is able to form close relationships with each of her students. She strives to provide support to all students regardless of their identity. She also says that because Meredith is a small college, both the students and faculty have a bigger impact on the school and it is easier to voice concerns and ask for change.
Dr. Gravelle says that during COVID-19, she has seen “some students try to make the best out of the situation and put extra effort in, making a community within choir,” but she has also “seen students who have struggled more, not with choir but with managing all the stress that college students have plus the anxiety in relation to COVID-19.” The wisdom that Dr. Gravelle wants to pass on for all her students is to stand their ground and use their voice to advocate for themselves. Academically, she hopes that all her students try to consume as much knowledge about various things as possible.
Outside of teaching music and directing the choirs, Dr. Gravelle loves to run and be outside with her family. She is a huge football and baseball fan and is looking forward to the start of the season.
By Rania Abushakra, Staff Writer