Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Heather Novak

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.

Today, we feature Heather Novak. Heather is an Emergency Room Nurse who is currently finishing her Master's degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

Heather Novak

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, a little piano, a little guitar

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?


Why did you start playing?

My Mom played the organ when I was little and I always wanted to play, too. She let me start playing the electric organ when I was around 7, but, I never had lessons. Then, when I was in 5th grade, it was time for school band. I really wanted to play the saxophone, but my Dad insisted I play either the flute or the clarinet, so I choose the clarinet. 


What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

I played the B flat Clarinet in elementary and middle school years. This included concert band and marching band. In middle school (it was actually a junior high back then), I also played the E flat clarinet in concerts. I also played the vibraphone during football half time shows one year. None of the percussionists knew how to read treble clef music and we were performing the Phantom of the Opera so a few woodwinds played for that song. Our band instructor knew how much I wanted to be in jazz band, but he did not allow clarinets in jazz band. He allowed me to play auxiliary percussion so that I could enjoy jazz as well. First chair clarinet alternated between myself and two other girls for the most part.... Who got to play first chair really depended on the week, but the competition for first was great fun! I was also in charge of the school music library one year; looking through all that sheet music and making copies was actually quite fun. I loved the music programs at my elementary and junior high school... but, made the choice to not play in the band in High School. My junior high band had beaten the high school band I was slated to be in during many competitions. I knew that as a clarinet player I was not talented enough to earn a scholarship to college so I opted to join ROTC instead... I sure did miss Band though. 

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

Mr. Bill Pease was my favorite music teacher. He was the band director at my middle school. He expected greatness from us and it showed. He never choose music based on the fact that we were a junior high band, he choose what he liked regardless of the grade and then taught us to play it. He was a perfectionist and expected us to always do our best. Tardiness was not tolerated, if you weren't ten minutes early you were late. If we were late we ran laps or did push ups, the same for disrespecting him. Even now, I still cannot stand to be late for things. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

I think my most memorable memory from grade school band was the district band concert. I was the infamous student.... The one who played twinkle twinkle little SCREECH! I was so embarrassed, I could not believe that I squeaked, and so loudly. My band mates didn't care, though... They reassured me that no one knew it was me and it didn't matter. 

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I did not play in college. I got married and had a family instead of going straight to college. When I did choose to go, the music program wasn't really a concern for me. 

What is your current occupation?

I am an Emergency Room Nurse, currently finishing up my Master's Degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

I think that music helps you think clearly. You are used to following direction, but also letting your heart sound through your music. In the medical field, caring really is an art. You have to think critically, but you also have to use your heart and sometimes think around the corners of problems to figure out what is really going on with your patient.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

The main way that music is part of my adult life at this point is through my kids. All three of my girls play instruments. I have a high school jazz trombonist, a clarinetist, and a beginning french horn player. I play with them occasionally, but I'm rusty. When I finish school in December, I plan to link up with the local community orchestra and bring music back into my life on my own account. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

The best advice I have for young musicians is to never let go of their music. Even if you don't continue in a band program, music touches a part of you and becomes part of your life. If you stop playing for a time, you will miss it... it's an expression of your soul and it can be an emotional release when things are tough. 

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