Mrs. Sandra Milne Holden has been a professional teaching artist for more than twenty years. Her philosophy of music education has developed as a result of both her personal and professional experiences across the country. She believes that every child is entitled to arts and music instruction in elementary school and that the instruction should be at a professional level. It is crucial for a music or singing-based program to be included in every child’s early years. The window of opportunity for the brain to develop an appreciation of and competence in music is small and is confined to the beginning years of a child’s life. Her passion for music instruction at the elementary school level is fueled by the constant feedback she gets as students develop their understanding and enjoyment of music and performance. It is exciting to her to watch the students gain self-confidence and begin to express themselves in new ways through music and drama.
Armed with a BS in Music Education from the University of Vermont, she worked as an itinerant music teacher in rural Vermont where she was responsible for the music program at 5 elementary schools in 5 different towns. As with most districts, there was great socio-economic diversity among the population she taught. A lack of curriculum resources led her to design a student study program that was geared toward choral, instrumental and dramatic performances.
After two years in Vermont, she headed to New York City where she worked as an actor and musician. Her next stop as a music educator was in Phoenix, Arizona where she worked at Peoria Unified School District at Heritage Elementary with an enrollment of 800 students grades kindergarten through 8. Her responsibilities included choral music instruction, instrumental music instruction, drama clubs and the production/direction of four shows per year. In addition, she had a number of private students who wanted supplemental training with either their individual instruments or their voices.
She was then off to Los Angeles where she maintained a performing arts career while continuing to utilize her teaching skills with several different organizations as an instructor. Her specialty was to administer arts, music, drama and dance to many types of differently-abled people. After the birth of her first child, she decided to go back to the classroom. She developed a new K-8 Music and Drama departments for Carden of the Foothills School in Monrovia. There were 3 music and drama productions per annum, including Shakespearian plays.
In 2007 she was hired by PUSD as a VAPA coach. Her job was to train teachers in music instruction as it relates to the California academic standards. She was then hired as the vocal music teacher at both Loma Alta Elementary and Don Benito Elementary. At both schools she has integrated the special needs students with the rest of the population. The participation of the special needs children in both classes and public performances is unusual in PUSD and an advancement within both schools.
She is dedicated to the arts education of students. Mrs. Holden believes in the concept that it takes a village to raise a child, but also that each person needs to be an active part of that village. The arts are a unifying and positive way to help children see a better world for themselves and a means to actively express the complicated feelings that go along with being a child in the 21st century.