Feature Real. Strong. Women.

MacDowell Month: Making Music and Magic

By Lauren Filippini (Alpha Chi, Butler University), Editor

As a music educator, Katie Wonderly (Gamma Tau, Oklahoma City University) is committed to sharing the joys of music with her students and with kids around the world. Growing up in a musical household, Katie always believed she was destined for Broadway; she reflects now, “Little did I know that one day I’d be putting on my own show every day for every student that walked into my music room!”

In college as a music education major, Katie was drawn to Alpha Chi Omega thanks to its musical heritage.

“I remember being so moved by the words of the Symphony,” she recalls. “I wasn’t only training to keep my voice in tune, but to keep my life in tune with the world around me. I didn’t want to only play notes on a piano, but to strike on the lyre of the universe the notes of happiness, joy and peace. This was to be my symphony, too.”

One of Katie’s music classes before the pandemic

Katie is now in her fifth year as a music teacher at Tulakes Elementary in Putnam City Schools of Oklahoma City. She teaches everything from counting rhythms to playing the ukulele to learning about musicians throughout history. Along the way, her students learn more than music.

“Music is used as a steppingstone to explore the diverse and wonderful world around us, and to navigate and embrace the overwhelming emotions that come with growing up,” Katie explains. “This means that not every moment in our day will be about making music. Sometimes when the environment around us is full of chaos or confusion, we pause and simply breath in and out.”

It’s philosophies like this that made Katie the 2020 Putnam City District Teacher of the Year. And when the pandemic began, Katie took her skills and mindset to the digital world. She had already created social media accounts for Ms. Wonderly Makes Music, sharing her journey as a young educator and the resources and tips she learned along the way. As her school worked on setting up distance learning last year, she used her social media presence to create free 30-minute lessons, which she shared publicly.

“My initial goal was to bring music-making experiences to my own students,” Katie says. “What I didn’t realize was that, thanks to the reach I had already developed, I would be bringing eight weeks of experiences to students and families in six continents, 10 countries and over 30 states. Ms. Wonderly Makes Music at Home became a weekly activity for families around the world looking to provide their children with meaningful, musical experiences during a time filled with all sorts of uncertainty.”

Katie assembling her music-making kits

When her school began the 2020-21 school year virtually, Katie created new digital lessons to engage her students, singing and dancing and using household items like pots and pans to create music. As the school transitioned to a hybrid schedule, Katie ensured her in-person students could make music safely. Through donations from the community and people around the world, she assembled music-making kits for each student that include rhythm sticks, an egg shaker, a scarf, a dry-erase board and marker, and a plastic cup for drumming.

“These kits provide students with a safe music-making experience, one that keeps me from having to re-sanitize everything in the 5-minute transition time I have between each class,” she points out.

Whether in person or virtual, Katie is happy to continue doing what she loves: “Making beautiful music and inspiring my young musicians to find their own magic within the music they make.” She adds, “The greatest reward in teaching is seeing students develop into kind, joyful, compassionate human beings, and for me, that happens to be developed through music.”

Sisters, did you know Katie and some of her Gamma Tau sisters recorded our beautiful initiation music? You can access it by logging into alphachiomega.org and clicking Resource Center > Ritual & Ceremonies.

Learn more about Katie at mswonderlymakesmusic.com or on Facebook and Instagram at @mswonderlymakesmusic.