HFC music student teaches in Middle East

Posted On July 11, 2018

Sarah Sevenbergen resized

By Suzanne Weiss/Holy Family College

MANITOWOC, Wis. — When Sarah Sevenbergen of Coon Rapids, Minnesota returns to teaching music in fall, she will continue her work at the American School of Doha in Qatar, a small country along the Persian Gulf.

“My initial thought was, I’m never going to move to the Middle East,” said Sevenbergen, who is working toward certificates in Conversational Solfege and First Steps in Music during the Kodály Summer Graduate Music Program at Holy Family College in Manitowoc.

She had always wanted to teach overseas, but Prague in the Czech Republic — or some such beautiful old European city — was her target.

Sevenbergen’s love of travel began at an early age. Her family moved quite a bit and her dad’s work at Delta Air Lines afforded them the luxury of frequent travel.

“The idea of home was never a permanent place with me,” Sevenbergen said.

She was introduced to music at an early age. Sevenbergen started playing clarinet in sixth grade and was selected as first chair clarinet in her high school band. “By my junior and senior years, I realized music had stuck with me all these years and it made sense to continue it in college,” she said.

After she graduated from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks with a Bachelor of Music degree in education, Sevenbergen taught pre-K-12 in a small town in North Dakota.

When she decided to pursue her dream of teaching overseas, this job in the Middle East opened up. Sevenbergen did her research and found the country was safe and the school was very prestigious. She began a two-year contract in January 2016 and signed up for another two-year stint earlier this year.

“I like it a lot more than I expected to,” Sevenbergen said. “The country is easy to adapt to, although it’s a lot hotter there. The people and students I work with are from all over the world. In fact, 90 percent are expats. The culture is Westernized, yet stays true to its roots.”

She came to Manitowoc because one of her fellow teachers in Qatar had studied Conversational Solfege in Ras Al Khaimah, just north of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. When they put this music teaching method to use in the classroom with their first and second graders, they were excited to witness the students’ growth and mastery of the subject.

Solfege is part of the Kodály method, an experience-based approach to teaching music developed in Hungary by Zoltán Kodály during the mid-20th century. Holy Family College was the first to offer a master’s degree in Kodály education and has since enjoyed a coveted reputation for excellence.

Music educators can earn a Master of Music in Music Education with a Kodály emphasis in just four summers. While earning a master’s degree, they also earn an Organization of American Kodály Educators-endorsed Kodály certification.

Graduate students also have the option of earning a Kodály certification in just three summers.

The two-week Manitowoc Kodály program, traditionally held in early July, was close to Sevenbergen’s Minnesota home — relatively speaking — and fit in with her busy summer of travel, including trips to Europe, Las Vegas, Chicago and Jamaica.

“The best part of traveling is that I’m always learning,” Sevenbergen said.