Jeff Knell recalls his beginnings in music as, “It was band day in fourth grade, and when I came home, my mom said, ‘I used to play clarinet. You should play clarinet.’”
Now a senior music education major, Knell is accomplished in many instruments and working hard to excite a new generation of youth to music as well.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Knell began playing at a young age, continuing on through high school. But when it came to applying for college, Knell had to do some deciding.
“I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I thought it would be for science or something,” Knell said. “But when it came time to apply, I decided to apply to music schools. Music had always been fun. I wanted to do something fun.”
Knell chose to come to Mercyhurst after auditioning with the bassoon. While it was only a hobby at the time, the bassoon is now Knell’s primary instrument. As a music education major, Knell is required to take classes in both the music department and the education department, which is quite a workload.
Part of the intense load includes student teaching this term, which Knell has completed at Harbor Creek Junior and Senior High School and Belle Valley Elementary School. He purposefully chose to do his student teaching during fall in order to work with marching bands. Although he loved both experiences, Knell’s ideal age group would be middle school.
“I worked the most with that age group and they really responded to me,” he said. “They cried the most on my last day. A lot of people shy away from that age group because there are so many changing emotions and ‘growing up’ issues.
“But I still act like a kid and so I can sympathize with them… Plus, they are really funny.”
Knell also aims to make the biggest difference in motivating kids of this age group.
“There’s so much hit-and-miss at that time, so hopefully I can motivate them to stick with (music) for life,” he said.
Admittedly, student teaching has been a much different experience than he expected. Knell was confronted with issues that could have never been foreseen or addressed in a theoretical classroom environment.
After graduation, Knell hopes to use his knowledge to go straight into teaching and hopefully pick up some postgraduate classes along the way.
“I’m not picky about where I end up, though,” he said.
Atop his normal workload, Knell takes part in many music-based extracurricular activities, including playing in the pit orchestras for Mercyhurst’s musicals such as Sweet Charity and Sweeney Todd.
Although he is aiming for a teaching position, Knell realizes that performance opportunities might arise in the future. He hopes these will include additional performance in a pit orchestra.
“It’s so fun. You get to play so many different instruments,” he said.