Jan Harriott to retire from UNK Music after 15 ‘rewarding and challenging’ years

Name: Jan Harriott
Job Title: Associate Professor Music Education; Early Childhood/Elementary Music Specialist
Years at UNK: 15
Family: Husband, Art, 71; Son, Art II, 45; Daughter, Angie, 42. Both children are married and live in Texas. Seven grandchildren, ages 23 to 8.
Career Path: Harriott is a native of Peoria, Illinois. She has taught music to students of all ages across the U.S. and in parts of Europe, which includes 17 years of public school elementary general music teaching in Illinois, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Hobbies/Interests: I started taking piano lessons at age 5 and clarinet lessons at age 9. So music has always been a passionate interest and career path of mine. With a Master of Arts degree in Clarinet Performance, I look for opportunities to perform in ensembles and chamber music recitals, when I have time. I haven’t performed piano in a long time, so maybe that will become a hobby in retirement. In addition, I love to dance and enjoy studying the body/mind/soul connections with yoga, martial arts and the Alexander Technique. I look forward to spending more time with these interests in retirement.

Three words that describe your personality? Energetic, Creative, Caring

Share something about yourself that few people know? Before coming to Kearney, my husband and I (and eventually the kids) lived in 10 different cities due to my husband’s military career: DeKalb, Illinois; San Antonio; Laredo, Texas; Tampa; Cape Cod, Mass.; Beale Air Force Base, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Montgomery, Ala.; Selsten, Germany; and Edmond, Okla.

While we were living in Germany for 3 years, I played clarinet in a German concert band. I was the only American in the band and was able to experience the German culture in a wonderful way – making music at German festivals in the area, as well as performing in their concerts.

What do you like most about your job? What I really like most is teaching and mentoring our students in their chosen career as a music educator. This has enabled me to get to know other music educators in Nebraska. I have learned so much from all of them.

Biggest change you’ve seen at UNK since you started? The biggest change I have seen is the growth of technology. When I came here in 2002, all of our wonderful current resources on the web were just getting started. Our music education graduate program was totally on campus, and now it is a totally online graduate program. It is mind boggling for me to see so many devices and resources that are available to use in research, teaching and for personal use.

Best career advice you received? I think the best advice has come from my experiences in teaching elementary general music for 17 years in four different states. I learned to plan my teaching for successful music learning and classroom control. One of the best tips came from one of my principals at the beginning-of-the-year faculty meetings in the mid-1990s. At the beginning of the school year, teachers are not to rush to teach curriculum. Instead, a priority of all teachers is to set the classroom procedures for everything the students will do and practice them often. Once this is practiced and the students understand them, then the teacher can begin concentrating on the curriculum. This change made a big difference in my classroom management and musical experiences. Now I share these tips with my students in my music education classes. One of the keys to classroom management is: Procedures, procedures, procedures!

What is your favorite thing about UNK? I like that UNK is a big enough school for our students to become involved in many things, but small enough to get individual attention. I also like that we have students come here to study from other countries. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge about their country and are willing to share with others. My husband and I were so lucky to have been part of the faculty cultural exchange to China in the summer of 2008. It was a place that we had never been, and we welcomed the chance to experience the Chinese culture as a part of the UNK community. We met many great people and have so many fond memories of that trip.

Where is your favorite place to visit on campus? I would have to say the coffee shop in the Fine Arts Building. That place keeps us all going in our busy careers.

Biggest challenge you faced in your time at UNK? One of the biggest challenges that I have faced at UNK is time management. As musicians, we all like to perform as well as teach, mentor our students, and give service to the profession. I am glad that I have had that opportunity to do all of this while at UNK. However, finding time to do it all is hard – rewarding, but challenging. Another challenge for me has been the handling of changes in policies and assessments. It takes much time and effort to understand and make changes as they come along in higher education. It has been a learning process for me.

What qualities make someone successful in your position? The qualities that come to mind are: Showing the love of elementary/early childhood music with energy and passion; Being flexible; Relating well to others; and being organized.

How do you measure success? Knowing that I have grown as a person, educator, scholar, musician and leader since coming to UNK, and also seeing this in my students.

Tell me about the time in your life at UNK when you worked the hardest? I think this would be when I became chair of our online music education graduate committee in 2012. There was much to learn and do in a short amount of time in all areas of our graduate program. This, combined with my other duties and teaching, was a challenge. What saved me was the wonderful e-campus and graduate office training/assistance at UNK. Both the e-campus staff and graduate office staff are to be commended for helping all of us at UNK understand this technology world. I couldn’t have done it without them, and I still rely on them for help.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently? I think I would embrace new technology more than I have. I am able to keep up and teach online, but I am not a tech savvy person. I really don’t understand how it all works. In this age of smart phones and iPads, I still get help from my kids and grandkids as to what they can all do. Maybe that will be another hobby and challenge in retirement – learning more about all of the apps on these devices.

What is your fondest memory of UNK? The students and career paths they have taken in Music Education, knowing that I had a part in setting the foundation for them as a music education major and future music teacher. Also, the mentoring and learning that I have received from all my colleagues at UNK in music, education and other fields has been great. We all learned from each other and became friends at the same time. I am glad to have had the opportunity to end my fulltime music education teaching career at UNK!