Teachers as Artists: Get to Know Jennifer Purdy

Jennifer Purdy has seen firsthand how art changes lives. Now, Jennifer is helping to change more lives by mentoring educators who are bringing the arts to their students. Jennifer is a BYU ARTS Partnership leadership team member, the program coordinator for the Arts Integration Endorsement class, and works to make sure educators learn basic art skills, learn how to teach the arts and encourage arts leadership in schools and communities.  

Jennifer began taking piano lessons when she was five years old. “I had a variety of teachers, but my piano teacher, Lucille Wilson, taught me how to love music, to feel music and to play with expression and intent,” she said.  “I memorized and performed about an hour’s worth of music for a solo piano recital she organized when I was about twelve years old. I felt like a star when there was a newspaper article about the recital and my whole family was invited to the local McDonald’s to order anything we wanted.” 

 Jennifer’s electives in school were almost always music classes. In high school, she taught violin at the Suzuki institute hosted by her local college, accompanied school and community music groups, played with the Rapid City Symphony, was concertmaster for the all-state orchestra, and even had a summertime nightly gig playing the piano at the touristy Red Garter Saloon in Keystone, South Dakota. Over the years, she has had dozens of private piano students and she still occasionally plays the piano with a local jazz band. 

Watercolor by Jennifer Purdy

Jennifer began her teaching career as a middle school resource teacher.  After she and her husband moved to Salt Lake City, she was hired to teach music at Highland Park Elementary.  “This was one of the first schools to have the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program and I was lucky to work with some amazing and pioneering arts educators, as well as Beverley herself,” she said.   

Years of experience in the music classroom where she has collaborated with grade-level teachers and other arts teachers have given Jennifer a rich background in arts education and have provided the opportunity for her to develop many, many, lessons that have stood the test of time.  

In her music classroom, Jennifer has seen students with no prior music education begin to see themselves as composers, singers and performers. “I saw how their success in music class carried over to other subject areas,” she said.  “I’ve seen shy students gain incredible confidence after singing or playing a solo in front of an audience, even if their solo was only a line or two. I’ve marveled at the creativity shown by groups of students writing songs for an original class opera. And I thrilled at their joy in seeing their songs in print and performing them in front of an audience. I have been moved by discussions I’ve had with students after we’ve sung historical songs from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. I appreciated that students’ interactions with music in my class gave them permission to feel and appropriately express joy, sorrow, frustration and anger.” 

In addition to music, Jennifer loves to paint with watercolors, go to art museums, and to travel. “Some of my favorite travel memories have been finding out-of-the-way art shows and local music performances including a Bach organ recital in Edinburgh’s St. Giles Cathedral, listening to fado in Terceira, Azores, attending nightly street opera performances in Barcelona, finding a blues band in Memphis and hearing Benedictine monks sing with a boys choir in Monserrat,” she said. 

Watercolor “Cykels” by Jennifer Purdy

Jennifer loves to share her expertise, lesson plans, and ideas with other teachers. She loves the work of helping change lives through the arts.  

Jennifer will be presenting at Arts Express in June, 2021. Her sessions always fill up fast! Register now by clicking here.

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for the Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.  

Comments (1)
  • Jen is an artist through and through. Thank you for sharing a part of her story with us. She makes the world a better place.

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