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May 25, 2021 | Abby Liu
This is a part of a new video interview series so that you can get to know our Middle School faculty. We hope that you enjoy learning more about them!
Abby Liu: Hello, I’m Abby Liu, Director of Marketing Communications at Mustard Seed School and I’m here today with Aiko Mauldin, who’s one of our music teachers. Welcome!
Aiko Mauldin: Thank you for having me!
Abby Liu: Thanks for joining us. Alright so we’re gonna jump right in. Tell us what you studied in college.
Aiko Mauldin: I studied piano performance in both undergrad and graduate school.
Abby Liu: How did you get into the Kodály Method, just out of curiosity?
Aiko Mauldin: Oh, it’s a great story. So, as a pianist, learning to be a concert pianist, you always wonder what you will do with your life after you graduate school. My husband, Josh, was taking some educational courses at NYU, and I was thinking, I don’t believe in that but I’ll just go check it out, and I just went one day with him to the classes because they had visitors day, or something like that. And I saw Susan Glass, who used to be at Mustard Seed as a Lower School teacher, teach a choral rehearsal. And it was done in such a beautiful way that I just fell in love. And I was like, I have to learn more about this! That was the Summer Kodály Institute at NYU. I signed myself up for the next year and started taking courses, and after three years, I was a Kodály teacher.
Abby Liu: Oh, excellent. So I should say we use the Kodály Method at Mustard Seed School all the way from Pre-K through eighth grade. Excellent.
What are you most passionate about in terms of teaching?
Aiko Mauldin: I love teaching music, and thinking about strategies, like how can I take a concept or a piece of music, and teach that to students at very different levels. Because within every grade level, we have kids that have been taking piano for years, or have been singing at home all the time, or never do music at home, so even in the same grade level we have so many different experiences, and I find it so exciting to find different strategies to teach music to the group of children, all at different levels and different interest levels too.
Abby Liu: That sounds like quite a challenge.
Aiko Mauldin: I like it.
Abby Liu: Yeah, fun too. Describe a moment when a student was challenged beyond what you expected in the classroom. What did that look like and what was exciting for you as a teacher?
Aiko Mauldin: This year has been so difficult for music, because we are not singing [because of the pandemic], and students are not meeting in the music room. I’m either zooming into that classroom, or I just started going to the classrooms to do music. And that changed a lot of the things that we do in music classes. But PROS, we used to have a weekly rehearsal after school. Kids sign up to join this group to perform. And this year, everything has changed about it. And after a long time thinking and talking to the kids, we decided to meet on Zoom after school once a week to rehearse recorders. Rehearsing recorder on Zoom isn’t very fun because you can only hear one person at a time so there’s a lot of waiting, there’s a lot of taking turns. They had to do all the work on their own, basically. So, we really had to think about what our goal is, and how we achieve our goal this year. If our goal is to be a servant to the community, be a musical ambassador, how do you do that when we can’t perform together as a group? So they’ve been working diligently, and we didn’t know what this year was going to be like. And we ended up creating so many beautiful music videos, and their work has been just astonishing. Their commitment has been strong, and they kept turning in video after video after video, throughout the whole year. And I was just amazed about what they’ve done in this sort of COVID year where they couldn’t play.
Abby Liu: So we should clarify, PROS stands for…?
Aiko Mauldin: Percussion, Recorder, Orff (which are the bar instruments), and Servants, because we are servants to our school community.
Abby Liu: And this is a special group that’s made up of what age level?
Aiko Mauldin: Sixth grade to eighth grade.
Abby Liu: Excellent. And I should say, we should give a shout out to you as well. I know that students have been working really hard and making beautiful videos, but you are also putting together all of those videos in a way that looks like everyone’s playing together. But you actually have individual videos that you’re lining up so that the students are playing together virtually. And I know that takes a huge amount of time and it is such a gift to the rest of us, that you put that work in and make this beautiful music. So, you are a conductor in a different way this year! And I know it’s very time consuming and I think we just need to recognize the work that you’re doing. So thank you for that.
Aiko Mauldin: Oh, it’s been fun.
Abby Liu: We’ve been studying UDL (or Universal Design for Learning) and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Can you show us an idea that you’ve tried in your classroomnas a result of the work of UDL, and it sounds like you already naturally do a lot of that because you’re constantly teaching students at different levels. But maybe you could give us an example.
Aiko Mauldin: This year we really focused on having one clear goal every time we meet, whether it’s a small goal or larger goal (like long term goals), but trying to be articulate about it with the students. Like today, we’re going to work on reading a four measure beat pattern, or today we’re going to work on hand movement to a song that we’re going to listen to, or today we will create a pattern on a boomwhacker or whatever it is to be really clear about what the goal is. Not just, this is what we’re going to do, but this is what we want to achieve by the end of our time together today, because often I realized that I knew what the goal is, and they knew what they’re working on, but they might not know what they’re supposed to be getting by the end of the class or by the end of the week. So just saying that today our goal is to just learn this rhythmic pattern. And then next week it might be, we learned this rhythmic pattern, now we want to play it accurately. Or, now we want to be able to do it musically and beautifully. Those goals, when it’s spoken about clearly, they respond because they know what they’re expected to do. And I find that was really, really inspiring because I never thought of it like that. Like, I always thought I know what the goal is, and that’s what matters right? But them claiming the goal and and then reflecting on it at the end of class, like did we meet our goal? Yes, how did we do that, or not quite, then what we need to do next time. So having a goal and reflecting on that really helped us to move forward.
Abby Liu: Fantastic. What’s an action that you’ve taken in your classroom to better honor and celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Aiko Mauldin: This year thanks to Señora Oro-Hahn’s inspiration, I really took a deep dive into researching the materials that I teach in the classroom, whether it’s a folk song in a lower school or an arrangement of an African American spiritual sung by the choristers, just knowing where the piece of music, or the inspiration of the music came from, and really studying it. Because we were talking about in black history month, how we learn African American spiritual, but that’s a music that’s been passed on orally, so there are so many different arrangements and so knowing who created that specific arrangement that we’re singing. And what the tradition of that is has a lot of impact on the final product that we actually perform. Is it African American inspired spiritual? Or is it really, authentically an African American spiritual? Because I think that makes a huge difference in honor, at least knowing and explaining that is honoring where the song or a piece of music came from. And also, thanks to all the media that’s available now, we were able to really hear from the expert when we are learning a piece of music. When we were studying the black composer Rollo Dilworth, we could actually hear him give a talk about his ways of composing and making arrangements on a video. And that’s so much better than me saying, “This is what I think Dr. Dilworth does.”
So I like there are so many different sources that are available to us, especially after this year. So, doing deep research into where things are actually coming from and how authentic they are was the start for me.
Abby Liu: It really honors the tradition and the culture. That’s great.
What motivates you and inspires you as a teacher?
Aiko Mauldin: I think I have a very lucky job here, that I get to see the kids, year after year after year. To see the growth in a long term view. When I see a kindergartener who wouldn’t make it to music because they were too tired and they were crying, or a first grader who used to scream I don’t want to go to music I hate music, become a graduate from us, become a musician, become someone that appreciate music and enjoys listening and performing music, and sometimes say, I love music by the end of their time, I mean, to see that growth, not only the kids that started out not liking it, but also the kids that started loving music, continue to nurture and grow their love for music. That’s the best part of my job.
Abby Liu: Also, just, again, it’s a road to human flourishing too, right, music is such a part of flourishing. So important.
Is there anything else that you think our family should know about you?
Aiko Mauldin: I think most people can tell, but English is not my first language, so I get very nervous when I’m speaking English. Actually, my first language is Japanese, and I love Japanese so much. I read in Japanese often, I watch Japanese movies. I talk to my parents in Japanese all the time, I just love the language and the nuance that it has. So sometimes when I am talking to students or when I’m talking to people, I just translate Japanese into English, and I also love Japanese Proverbs, and that comes out when I say things. And I translate it literally. Sometimes I get these responses like I don’t know what you just said. And it’s probably because I translated some ancient proverb in English like, I can put you in my eye! And people are like,
And then I say, I just told you that I care about you so much, and so I have to do a lot of explaining because of my Japanese love for Japanese language.
Abby Liu: Right, I think we’re all that much richer for it, so I’m glad that you bring that with you and share that with us. And also I love your mini term classes, I love seeing how the students get to explore a Japanese language and culture with you. Fantastic.
Okay, so I’ve got my quick questions. How long have you worked at Mustard Seed School?
Aiko Mauldin: This is my 15th year.
Abby Liu: Wow. What’s the last book you read?
Aiko Mauldin: Lately I’ve been into Agatha Christie mysteries. So, I’m loving these British things as well. So the Thirteen Problems. The short stories are the last one I’ve read. I’m a big fan of Miss Marple.
Abby Liu: Oh, I love Miss Marple! So good.
Okay, what’s the show that you’re watching right now or recently enjoyed.
Aiko Mauldin: Call the Midwife!
Abby Liu: Oh, sweet. What’s the first thing that you’re going to do when the pandemic is over, or at least major restrictions lifted?
Aiko Mauldin: I would love to sing with my students and with my friends! And I think I will cry.
Abby Liu: Yeah, I’m with you. I so miss the singing around school, I miss the singing at worship. It’s such an integral part of who we are and we’ve made it work but wow it’s been hard. Yeah, I’m totally with you.
All right, favorite dessert? And I know you’re an incredible cook and baker.
Aiko Mauldin: Chocolate mousse.
Abby Liu: Oh, so good. Name a band or artists that you enjoy listening to.
Aiko Mauldin: Pablo Casals! He’s a cellist, and my go to piece is [his recordings of Bach’s] unaccompanied cello suites, especially in E flat Major. I just love cello so much.
Abby Liu: Oh, I do too. Alright, the final thing, what’s one item that will always be in your fridge?
Aiko Mauldin: Eggs. If we have eggs, I feel like we’ve got breakfast, lunch, and dinner covered, we’re good.
Abby Liu: Yeah. Excellent. Well thank you so much for taking the time to share parts of yourself with us and your teaching. And we’ll see you around school!
Aiko Mauldin: Thank you for having me!