Texas Border Business
By Joey Gomez
McALLEN, Texas – On any given day, lively discussions between students and South Texas College Professor of Music Ron Schermerhorn can range from talking about Mozart concertos to the history of hip hop and everything in between.
With a teaching approach that goes beyond just basic memorization of facts and figures, Schermerhorn said engaging in conversation, technology and above all listening to music impacts students even long after they have completed his class.
Connection through engagement leads to course excitement, said Schermerhorn, who has been named 2023 South Texas College eFaculty of the Year through a nomination and selection process by his STC peers. He will be recognized during the fall 2023 Academic Affairs Assembly Aug. 21.
“Winning an award like this is the apex or pinnacle of my career, and for me came completely out of the blue,” Schermerhorn said. “I just feel like I’m doing what is helpful for the students, making the classes fun, engaging and exciting but still continuing to improve all the modalities and different things that I do within teaching.”
As a music instructor for the last 12 years at STC, Schermerhorn has taught courses in Music Appreciation, American Music, Percussion Ensemble, World Music Ensembles, Indoor Drumline and Applied Percussion Lessons.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Anahid Petrosian, Ph.D., said Schermerhorn earned the annual recognition by going above and beyond in providing high-quality online learning for his students.
“At South Texas College, our online courses are accessible, engaging and taught by extraordinary faculty,” said Petrosian. “Mr. Schermerhorn skillfully provides a strong instructor presence online and does an exemplary job of building rapport with his students. Embedded in Mr. Schermerhorn’s online courses are examples of best practices for teaching online.”
A self-professed technology enthusiast, Schermerhorn is highly adept at using technology to incorporate tools and develop content and activities in order to engage students in their coursework.
“Even if students are taking classes virtually, they need to feel like they’re in the room with me,” Schermerhorn said. “How I do that is, I structure the courses in terms of the elements of music like melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, texture, form, instruments and vocals. I cover all of these and then put them into special topics.”
Special topics, according to Schermerhorn, can include anything from Elvis to Rachmaninoff, or Beethoven to an analyzation of a song by Bruno Mars. It all comes down to breaking through “brick walls” in online education through flow of design which leads to harmonious universal design, he said.
“One of the things I have been working on for a few years and will continue to do so, is how to make the content I enjoy teaching so much more engaging to students with the hopes of a transfer value to other courses,” Schermerhorn said.
The goal, he said, is to craft lessons that are meticulously organized through personal videos, narrated PowerPoints and student music journals as well as incorporating applications like SoundCloud, YuJa, Padlet, Flip and Pronto into his courses.
“The biggest thing I try to do is make sure there is a balanced approach to online learning that includes the historical element, the listening element along with the given assignments and assessment part of a course so they feel like they are in the class with me,” he said. “I think that’s really got to be the ultimate goal. They may be taking an online course with me, but it doesn’t feel like it’s online.”
Under Schermerhorn’s direction, STC’s Drumline has competed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. in the Collegiate Small Ensemble Category “Snare Ensemble”.
Schermerhorn earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master of Music from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Percussion Performance. He is also a full-time section percussionist with the Valley Symphony Orchestra.
“The most important thing is to listen. Listen to the music and then let’s talk about it,” Schermerhorn said about what he asks students who enter his class. “Let’s talk about it in a way where you are actively listening and focusing…even if it’s something you don’t like or have never even heard of.”