Mary Lynn Doherty

Assistant Director of the School of Music, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Music Education

Mary Lynn Doherty

What year did you start working at NIU?
Fall of 2006

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Darien, Illinois, and I now live in St. Charles, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
Luther College, Bachelor of Arts
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Master of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Doctor of Philosophy

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts

What do you like about working at NIU?
I love that I have been able to work with so many different students of varied backgrounds and interests, who impact my own teaching and learning in profound ways. While sharing in their common pursuit of becoming a music educator, I am afforded an opportunity to challenge and elevate my own knowledge and skills. As a conductor of the University Chorus, I get to make music with students and colleagues and feed my soul as a musician. The third prong of my work is now partially in administration, and I am enjoying the new perspectives that work has brought me as well. 

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Take advantage of every opportunity and do not be satisfied with just meeting expectations. This is the time to see how far you can stretch your time and energy, a dollar, your thinking and your ability to empathize and understand others. NIU has so many wonderful people in our network who want to give back and see you succeed - do not pass up the chance to grow in as many different directions as possible. And ask for help when you need it, because there are deep resources to support you on your path toward your degree. 

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am currently working with my Research Rookie, Daisy Soberanis, to examine the repertoire lists of the Illinois Music Education Association's All-State and All-State Honors choirs since 1967. We are looking specifically at how much of the music that was programmed is by BIPOC and women composers. We are also determining percentages of BIPOC and women conductors. This current research picks up on some presentations and previous initial writing I have done with my colleague Dr. Christine D'Alexander and alumna Alexis Lamb. 

What do you hope students take away from your class?
My hope for students is that they leave my classes more in love with teaching and making music than when they started and that they have a higher level of skill, knowledge, confidence and self-concept as a result! There is so much to be engaged with as a music educator, and I try to provide avenues for students to explore the things they are most interested in in more depth. I hope they take away the ownership of their own learning and know that I and others are here to guide and support them. 

What is your favorite campus event?
My favorite campus event probably changes year to year. Here are a few examples. I hosted a Community Sing several years ago with guest conductor and composer Nick Page. We had over 200 people of different ages from children to seniors attend from the community, and together with my students, we spent an afternoon sharing music and fellowship. In the fall of 2019, the music education area hosted a Summit on Urban Music Education, and seeing my students engage with each other and our guests was very inspiring and affirming. This semester it was my recording session with the University Chorus - they all gave 110% under difficult circumstances, and I am still feeling so uplifted by that experience. 

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory of NIU is actually the Illinois Music Education Conference in January of each year. Being at the NIU booth and seeing all of our alumni come through is such an honor and a highlight. As our largest gathering of elementary, middle and high school music educators in the state, the IMEC event allows us to reconnect with so many members of our NIU family, and it always gives me energy and a sense of renewed purpose. 

Who has influenced your professional path?
I have had many excellent mentors on my professional path, including my students of all ages! Judy Hanson and Brett Goad were my junior and senior high choral directors, and both made a major impact on me as a young person. I still look up to them and try to model my work after their examples of leadership and dedication to your craft and your students.

Weston Noble was my college conductor, and his servant leadership made a profound impact on me as a person and as a conductor. Even though he was arguably the most important person on the campus of Luther College, he was also the most humble. He would pick up trash on the weekends around campus and model the kind of commitment to your work that I have never seen before or since. 

Finally, Anthony Barresi, Julia Eklund Koza and Gerald Olson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison planted the seed that I should pursue my doctorate, and for that, I am forever grateful. They showed me you could impact not only the students in your own school program, but as a music teacher educator, your impact could extend to many more students and communities. I consider it an honor to have studied with each of these individuals, and I work hard to further their legacies. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
From a young age, I loved to sing and make music and knew early on that I loved sharing that experience with others. Teaching music and working with educators has always been a natural fit, and I have never questioned my choice to pursue a life in the creative arts. 

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME)and the Illinois Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance Committee. Each of these organizations seeks to support and promote music education and provide resources to their members to enhance knowledge and skills. In my role as coordinator of music education at NIU, it is essential that I stay active in my professional organizations, and I have participated as a board member of the Illinois ACDA and a district honors choir conductor through the Illinois Music Education Association (the state arm of NAfME). I am also on the leadership team of the Illinois CMP team. All of these experiences help me enhance the professional networks of my students, bring guests to our campus and allow me to connect with larger groups of young student musicians around the state. 

What do you do to relax or recharge?
Right now, I try to focus on my family and friends and spend quality time talking, cooking, walking or just being together!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
My students are bright, engaging and passionate about what they do. This inspires me every day!

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