Beth (Bowman) Peterson (1981) Trumpet
Ed. Note: pictured on the left, (now Associate Director of the University of Illinois band), Beth was a member of the 1980 and 1981 NTW Recording Jazz Ensembles. She was chosen to be a Student Director, and in that capacity worked with, and directed, the Lab Jazz Ensemble. Beth toured Greece and Romania, with the NTW Jazz Ensemble in 1980. In 1980 she was awarded the Samuel A. Mages Award in recognition for achievement in instrumental music. In 1981 she was awarded The Benny Goodman Trophy, which is presented for excellence in musical performance, superb leadership, and for providing inspiration to others.
In 9th grade, I broke my leg and that is why I am a professional music educator. All my life I wanted to ski (well, all my life since junior high) so I signed up to go on a Friday night NTW Ski Trip to Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin. I had never skied before and promptly broke my leg on the bunny hill. When I got back to school the next week, leg in a cast and an excuse to miss 7th period P.E., I conned my advisor, Joanne Mills to write me a daily pass to observe the Recording Jazz Ensemble for the next 6 weeks. And, then I met Roger Mills.
I was amazed. I had never heard or seen anything like it. The ensemble was rehearsing Frank Zappa’s Peaches and Regalia and Gospel John among other pieces. Roger would not let me just sit and listen – he made me take out my trumpet and sit in. I was in awe and nervous and did not know what a ‘concert Bb’ was but I was so excited to learn. I remember he ‘went down the line’ asking the trumpets to play a technical passage in Gospel John – and he even included me! I was hooked and was going to do everything possible to make it into the Recording Jazz Ensemble someday. Two years later I was in the group that traveled and performed throughout Greece and Romania. And I was the first female Student Director for the Jazz Program.
As a student director of the jazz ensembles, Roger taught me to conduct by handing me a score to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. Great music is great music and I learned to follow along to a recording and move my arms in some kind of musical gesture. In the summer, Roger took me to the old Carl Fischer music store in Chicago to buy music for the jazz ensembles and he taught me what to look for in a young band jazz chart.
I also remember the time the students walked into the NTW band room and it had been converted into a record store – yes, a record “album” store where we were able to purchase jazz records at greatly reduced prices because Roger always emphasized listening as part of the curriculum. I learned later that he had gone to Tower Records in Chicago and cleaned them out to resell them to us.
The rest of my story includes joining the Michigan Marching Band as a non-music major (something my jazz ensemble colleagues would not be surprised at as they always teased that I was pretty straight for jazz). Eventually, I missed playing my trumpet in a concert band and auditioned for the School of Music at Michigan and was accepted as a music education major. As of my sophomore year in college I knew that I wanted to be a teacher – and music was my favorite subject thanks to Roger Mills, Joanne Mills, NTW and all the great student peer musicians who supported, encouraged, and challenged me. Roger’s standards and high musical expectations kept us focused and set a path for those of us who wanted to pursue music as a career.
After college, I taught band in the public schools of Ohio and Illinois for ten years. I met my husband Steve while working on a master’s degree at Northwestern University. We moved to upstate New York in the late 90’s where I taught at the Ithaca College School of Music for seventeen years (band and music education). I earned a Doctorate from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester Virginia while teaching at IC. And now I am currently about to retire from the University of Illinois where I have been the Associate Director of Bands for the past 7 years. Steve and I have two wonderful children: Katie who is a first-grade teacher and high school basketball coach in Longmont CO and John who is currently completing a master’s degree in Sports Recreation and Tourism at the University of Illinois.
In summary, as a member of the New Trier West Jazz Studies Program I learned, as everyone did, lifelong lessons that have been valuable in steering me through ‘thick and thin.’ Two of the most important were commitment and determination. Regarding the first, ‘follow through on what you commit to.’ And as for determination, probably the most important, is that ‘anything is possible.’ As Roger always put it, ‘the word can’t shouldn’t exist.’ Instead substitute ‘temporarily unable to,’ and keep focused. I am now doing what I set my mind to years ago. I was truly fortunate to have been a part of the Jazz Ensemble Program, and am truly appreciative to all the members, and to our director. In a large way I am now doing what I did in high school.
Doesn’t get much better than that!
And, by the way, I don’t ski – but I do still play my trumpet!
My Professional Biography
Dr. Elizabeth Peterson, clinical professor of music, and associate director of bands, joined the Illinois faculty in the fall of 2015. Dr. Peterson conducts the Illinois Wind Orchestra, serves as the placement coordinator for student teachers and teaches courses in instrumental conducting. Prior to her appointment at the University of Illinois, Peterson was a tenured professor of music education at the Ithaca College School of Music. During the seventeen years she spent at Ithaca College, Peterson conducted numerous ensembles including the Symphonic Band, Brass Choir and All-Campus Band. She taught courses in conducting, undergraduate and graduate courses in music education, and supervised student teachers. Peterson was the co-conductor of the Ithaca Concert Band (community band) for fifteen years. Dr. Peterson’s current research focuses on the experiences of first-year teachers.
Dr. Peterson is active as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and school music consultant in the United States and Canada. She presents clinics at the local, state, and national levels in the field of music education. Peterson’s two books, “The Music Teachers First Year: Tales of Challenge Joy and Triumph,” and “The Music Teacher’s Later Years: Reflection with Wisdom” are both published by Meredith Music.
Dr. Peterson received a Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Literature, Science and Arts degree from the University of Michigan where she studied trumpet with Armando Ghitalla. She received a Master of Music in Music Education and Trumpet Performance from Northwestern University, where she studied trumpet with Vincent Cichowicz, and performed in the North Shore Community Band under the direction of John P. Paynter. She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education from Shenandoah Conservatory.
Prior to her appointment at Ithaca College, Peterson was an arts administrator and director of bands in the public schools of Ohio and Illinois. Dr. Peterson holds a number of professional memberships including the College Band Directors National Association, The National Association for Music Education, Mu Phi Epsilon, Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda. Peterson is a member the American Bandmasters Association and the Midwest Clinic Board of Directors.