The Conversation: Marianne Rice

Director of Music Education, Jacksonville Symphony

Photograph by laird

Your new position as director of music education is endowed by Lory Doolittle, a dedicated Jacksonville philanthropist and avid symphony supporter. Doolittle says, “Music plays a vital role in the lives of everyone and the symphony education director will allow musical opportunities to grow and enrich our population.” What are your initial ideas to fulfill this call? 

It’s a great honor and privilege to serve in this capacity as the Lory Doolittle Endowed Director of Music Education and Community Engagement. Being able to meet and speak with her about music education was an enlightening experience for me. We both have a passion for music and its vital role in education. For me, music is life, and it tells our stories. My vision is to continue the extraordinary programs while expanding educational practices that inspire and encourage diversity by creating lasting community partnerships. 

Your most recent position as an educator in Duval County Public Schools puts you in a position to know firsthand how music education impacts our community’s young people. Can you share how this experience in schools will help you tailor the symphony’s educational opportunities to our student population? 

Teaching at Englewood High School was a great experience for me because of my holistic view of education. I loved seeing my students each morning. Some of them were tired because my class started at 7:15 a.m., but they would give me the biggest smiles.  My classes represented the population of Jacksonville; it was culturally and ethnically diverse. Even though I taught speech and debate, I had to make my lessons meaningful to all of my students. One particular lesson was the history of rap music and my students had to prepare speeches about the cultural influences of rap and how the genre transformed into hip-hop. For me, it is vital to show the human connection of music and what inspires composers.

All of these experiences and techniques will carry over into my role at the Jacksonville Symphony. For instance, Leonard Bernstein is known for creating diverse elements within his compositions. His use of jazz to liturgical themes is evident of his life experiences. And of course, West Side Story’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is another example of music and life’s connections. 

What inspired you to author and publish adult and children’s books on music and facets of music history? 

My inspiration is culture. Gullah music is authentic to the southern coastal region of the United States. Its history can be traced from Wilmington, North Carolina to here in Jacksonville. Both Music Education Through Gullah and Anire’s Adventures (my mother and I wrote this book together) explore my South Carolina Gullah heritage of music and language. For Music Education Through Gullah, I wanted to present traditional Gullah music in the classroom. As a former teacher, I feel as though we are always being told what we’re not doing. So, I wrote my book to bridge the gap between what is considered non-traditional music in the classroom, and how polyrhythm, time signature, tempo, and patterns are all forms of music. Anire’s Adventures is a collection of children’s stories that my mother and I wrote together. It’s a journey of Anire’s connection with her family. My daughter Anire (her name is Yoruba for “one with blessing”) was the inspiration for the book title. 

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Author: Arbus

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