Casey Georgi, a music education student, has a few more months of student teaching before she is an official Ithaca College graduate. But instead of sticking around Tompkins County or heading back to her hometown near New York City, Georgi is hopping on a plane to Africa in January to be the first ever music teacher at the Mzuzu Academy in northern Malawi.
To help raise funds for music supplies for the school, Georgi is hosting “Music for Mzuzu,” a benefit concert, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. today at the First Unitarian Church on North Aurora Street.
Senior Writer Lauren Barber spoke with Georgi to discuss her passion for music and education, as well as her future plans in Malawi.
Lauren Barber: Why did you choose a music education career?
Casey Georgi: Probably since ninth or 10th grade in high school, I was very fond of my music classes and my music teachers. I had a very close relationship with them. I think it was my music theory teacher my sophomore year of high school who really got me interested in teaching music. She was really inspiring and charismatic. College was right around the corner, and I started thinking about what I wanted to do and what interested me, and teaching was something that I was particularly fond of. I started to lead rehearsals in high school. It gave me some insight into what it would be like to teach a classroom. I loved it and had a knack for it, so I continued to stick with it.
LB: What is it exactly that you love about teaching?
CG: You can never measure how large your influence is on your students. When you’re teaching, it’s coming from your soul, and you’re saying something valuable to young people. You’re trying to be a good role model for them. You never know how far that can travel, and I think it’s really incredible. I think we need passionate teachers now more than ever. For me, teaching has always been something so moving, and I’ve had a lot of positive experiences. I think it’s one of the most rewarding careers out there. It’s definitely underrepresented and underappreciated, but it’s not about the money — it’s about the kids who need a great role model and someone to educate them.
LB: What motivated you to teach so far away from home?
CG: I had considered teaching abroad, but it’s just so daunting to apply. This was so easy because it was basically handed to me. I already had an interest in working with [Malawi native] Anna [Keys] in Africa and doing some volunteer work. When she told me I could teach in her country, it was like killing two birds with one stone. Africa is something that, since I’ve known her, I’ve had an interest in. Having this opportunity at my fingertips is probably what made it most desirable.
LB: What do you think will be the most rewarding part of your year in Malawi?
CG: In terms of the project, I’m already going to be so thrilled meeting the kids, seeing them play all these instruments I’ve had donated to me, seeing them reproduce what I’ve taught to them. Ideally, I would like to put on a concert at the end with my whole music class. Showing that to the community will probably be one of the most rewarding things. There are also things like helping out at the feeding center, keeping children fed and alive from day to day will be an enormous achievement. It will be so hard to measure the biggest achievement over there.
LB: Why do you think it’s so important for the academy to have a music program?
CG: These are children like anyone else in the world who deserve a well-rounded curriculum and deserve to flourish with the arts. I think every child deserves that exposure. For me personally and a lot of my close friends, having an art or music class really got us through school. It’s what helped us express ourselves and excel in other subjects. I think in [Malawian] culture especially, music is something that is innate. It is something that is within them. It’s not about professional musicians for them — it’s a part of their community.