Cheers to Ms. McGowan

Ms. McGowan shares her thoughts during her last year teaching at JD

Ms. Fiona McGowan has taught music at Juan Diego for six years. From marching band to jazz band, she directs the music program at JD. Next year, she is going back to school to earn her Master’s degree in South Carolina.

“I’ve grown up being surrounded by higher education. My dad has his doctorate [degree] and his brother has his doctorate, so I’ve always had the expectation for myself to go back to grad. school,” McGowan said. She was offered full-paid tuition and although it was a hard decision to leave JD, she wants to improve her musical education.

McGowan didn’t expect to teach at Juan Diego for as long as she has. “I liked it here and I felt like I wasn’t done at Juan Diego yet. I’m grateful to JD because I was brand new out of college when they hired me and they gave me a chance.”

Ms. McGowan decided she wanted to become a music teacher because of some of her own teachers. “I’ve had so many good music teachers in my life, so I wanted to be that to someone else and pay it forward. I wanted to use the things I’ve learned from my amazing teachers and pass it on to the new generation; I hope I’ve made a difference for someone else.”

McGowan thinks she will remember the little moments as a teacher here after she leaves JD. “Sometimes, it’s just the small things. Like during class, if someone says something funny and we all share this moment or when we’re working on a piece and it sounds really good. Those peak musical moments are really special and hard to describe. It’s a really cool experience.”

She especially appreciates the moments she’s shared with the marching band. “It was also really cool when we started the marching band and we had our Monday night practices in the stadium. There’s just this really cool feeling finishing rehearsal under the lights, knowing how hard we’ve worked,” she said.

McGowan hopes that she’s influenced her students as musicians and human beings. “Hopefully people like music and are better musicians because of it; but more importantly, I hope people are better people because I’ve worked with them.”

She thinks that she will miss her students the most at JD. “I will miss the students because this was my first band, my first program. I’ve spent more time with the students than I do with my family over the past six years, especially the Wind Symph. and high school kids. It will be hard to walk away from that.”

 

McGowan feels that her students have influenced her life in wonderful ways as well. “So when you’re a student, if you don’t do your homework, it only affects you. But when you’re a teacher, if you’re not prepared, if you’re not on your A-game, it affects so many more people. So I think the students have challenged me to be my best as a teacher so I don’t let them down.”

The music program has grown a lot since McGowan has taught at JD. “It [the music program] has grown literally in numbers. We have more people in the classes and especially in the newest program, the marching band. It’s not just me, I have to give credit to Mr. Blodgett and to the students because if I just did marching band, it would be a marching band of one person. I couldn’t have done it without the support.”

 

McGowan cherishes how music has affected her life. “I like how music can take you out of any situation you are currently in. It’s something very real to distract your mind. It’s really fun just to create something; sometimes it can be beautiful, sometimes it’s not, but it’s a fun experience and gives you something to keep striving towards-trying to reach that perfection. Even if you never get there, it’s nice to have that skill.”

McGowan hopes she’s had an impact on her students. “I hope I was an inspirational figure for kids not only to do music but to try and do their best at whatever they do; to make the world a little better than they found it.”

 

“Sometimes the comradery is more important in band than the product; having an experience with people who are like-minded in some ways but yet different in others,” McGowan said. She believes that band is a unique activity for high schoolers and adults.

“Something that my adult band (Salt Lake Symphonic Winds) conductor said before a concert was that when you’re playing music, you’re not thinking about the differences between you and the people sitting by you. I think it’s really beautiful that we are just trying to achieve the same product. It doesn’t matter what religion I am, it doesn’t matter what he thinks, it doesn’t matter how she dresses, we are all just trying to create something together. Band is a true exemplification of that.”

 

McGowan tries to take her own philosophies and apply it to her teaching. “I heard it said, ‘If you can, you must.’ and ‘If you change one life, you change the world.’ Those are two quotes that I try to take with me into my classroom.”

“I believe every student is musical,” she said, “and I believe every student can create music. I feel like it’s my job as a teacher to pull that out of students and help them find small victories. Helping students reach their best potential.”

After receiving her master’s degree, Ms. McGowan hopes that she will teach music again in the future. “I’m so grateful for the experience I’ve had here.”

 

 

 

You know how people say that their teachers are more than just their teachers? Well, Ms. McGowan truly showed me this. She really cares and loves us all in a way I haven’t seen in any other teacher. She got me through high school, with the help of my friends of course. I remember during my first couple years of high school, I would wait outside for my ride after marching band practice and even if I was the last one out, she would wait with me. She’s something else.”

— Dylan Uribe, Senior