UTF Mentor Spotlight: Professor Emily Ezola

“So much of my career has been due to the UTF program,” Professor E. Ezola.

Professor Emily Ezola has a long history of engagement at Utah State University. In 2007 she enthusiastically accepted a USU Youth Conservatory event coordinator music scholarship, and began her involvement in the UTF program during the first semester of her Freshman year.  Currently, Emily serves as the Program Director of the Youth Conservatory, teaches private piano instruction, and teaches multiple USU music courses including Intro to Music, Fundamentals of Music, Keyboard Harmony, and Pedagogy Practicum.

Professor Ezola was musical as a child, and when her mother noticed her deep love for music decided to find a more serious teacher, leading her to USU Alumni and eventually current professors. Later she came to Utah State on a scholarship with the Youth Conservatory, a pre-college piano prep program that offers individual instruction and group music classes for ages 6 months to 18 years, taught by piano majors and graduate students at the university.

Being a Keyboard Harmony UTF was invaluable to Emily’s career.  It gave her the opportunity to work with students one-on-one, organize and execute group study sessions, and administer weekly quizzes. In doing this she learned “crucial class-time management” skills, and how to not only set goals for myself but also help other students reach and set their own personal goals..

Homecoming parade

Homecoming Parade (Photo courtesy of Emily Ezola).

Professor Ezola now works with UTFs in her own classes. She states that UTFs, “help give me new perspective on the class, and often provide the students with different explanations of the same concept. And in those moments they really teach me a lot, too,” and adds that the program makes students look more attractive as they apply for graduate assistantships.

One of the most important aspects of this UTF opportunity is that it gives piano majors teaching experience, helping them decide if they really want to teach. Professor Ezola added that it is like an internship, and that a student is able to “gain independence as a musician.” She adds that ability to teach effectively is important for all music majors, even if they intend to only perform.

Clarifying expectations with your mentor is a critical part of being a successful UTF. Professor Ezola explained that as an undergraduate, the UTF semester that has influenced her the most came about because of a mentor who was willing to hold her accountable, and push her to become better. Now, as a UTF mentor herself, she advises “be where you should be, when you should be there.” It creates a relationship of trust when there is open communication, expectations, and accountability.

Advice—“If students have an inkling to do this, they should follow that inkling.” Professors want UTFs, so make a case to the professor you are interested. Be confident and go right up to them and ask/say you want to be a UTF—it is likely that they’ll be excited to have you. Finding a way to earn money on campus helps keep you focused on finishing your degree, and I know that being immersed in University opportunities was one of the most helpful tools that I used to stay motivated and engaged with my college career.”

Professor Ezola’s comments to me about judging piano competitions seem appropriate for UTFs seeking to make the most of their experience. She said, “We should capitalize on our weaknesses.  If we can determine the biggest weakness, figure out a way to make it a strength, amazing growth will be had. And that process is magic.”

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