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Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Alum Spotlight: Justin Anders

Justin Anders

We had a chance to catch up with another recent graduate, Justin Anders, for our  Alum Profile. Justin worked in Music as his primary disciplinary emphasis, and Education as his secondary. He is currently the Director of Bands at Harrison Junior High in Harrison, Arkansas.

Would you tell us a little about what you studied through MALS and who you studied with?

“Dr. Bevan Keating, director of conducting and choral activities, served as the chair for my thesis committee. While working with Dr. Keating, I had the opportunity to not only study choral and orchestral conducting but I also had the extreme fortune of conducting an absurdist opera, conducting and participating in UALR’s community chorus and being assistant conductor for Mozart’s Requiem in d minor, Mendolssohn’s Elijah and Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.”

“This knowledge in conducting was supplemented by my courses in education. Dr. Karina Clemmons, served as a member of my thesis committee and aided me as I selected education courses that complemented the direction I wanted to take in my career. Further interdisciplinary courses, guided by Dr. Angela Hunter, were instrumental in helping me to pull concepts from conducting, music education and education into a focused lens with which I could view and address various issues.”

Could you tell us a little about your interdisciplinary thesis work?

“My thesis, The Effects of Classical Background Music on the Behavior of Children in the Elementary School Classroom: An Interdisciplinary Approach, focused first on a problem which all educators face, discipline, and sought to incorporate background music to explain and improve the problem. Initially, I only approached my topic from a musical background. While in my interdisciplinary courses I began to realize how this direction can be confining. Seeking to refine my lens with which I was viewing my topic, I began to incorporate and study other fields such as psychology, educational psychology, physical science, anatomy, educational theory, music therapy and musicology. By incorporating these fields into my present knowledge of music education I was able to understand and defend my conclusion more clearly. Ultimately, I found the background music that was classified as soothing positively effected the behavior of elementary aged students. Students were found to be in a more positive mood, more helpful and more empathetic with their peers. By extension, the increased mood and concentration level led to an improvement in both math and reading scores.”

What is it like being Director of Bands at Harrison Jr. High?

“Our program is one of the largest and only growing program in the district with over 400 students 6-12 and consists of 13 separate performing groups. I am the woodwind specialist, conduct the 8th grade band, high school symphonic band, high school jazz band, and coordinate not only all aspects of the junior high band program, but also jazz education throughout the entire program. Our band consistently receives superior ratings, outstanding caption awards, best in class awards and various accolades at the competitions in which we take part.”

How has the MALS program affected your education and career?

“I believe that my time in the MALS program has had many benefits. I was able to obtain a graduate degree and tailor it to suit my interests and goals. The practical experience I gained while studying conducting has been invaluable, the instruction and advice I received from numerous faculty has been profound, and the courses I chose to complement my current career has complimented my job and future.”

Any advice for our current students?

“My advice to those writing a thesis in the MALS program would be to take advantage of the interdisciplinary approach. I found that as I approached my subject from an interdisciplinary nature, instead of a multidisciplinary nature, I not only obtained a deeper understanding of my subject but also was better able to communicate and defend my conclusion.”

Updated 11.21.2012