Paula Kowalkowski loves providing a real-world musical education to Columbia College Chicago students.
After 25 years of high school choral directing, Music faculty member Paula Kowalkowski brought her passion to Columbia. For the past seven years she has been teaching introductory music courses, including Music Prep and Aural Skills. With two degrees in music education and more than 20 years as a professional singer, Kowalkowski continues to bring the same enthusiasm and passion to her classroom as she did on day one.
You taught high school students for two decades. What made you want to change to teaching in college?
I got tired of the high school scene, the constant pressure to do concerts and to travel with the kids and do the musical. My friend Philip Seward was [Columbia’s] composition chair at the time. He said, “Why don’t you come teach at Columbia?” I didn’t know much about Columbia [then], but I really grew to love it because the students here are really engaged, and they really want to be in the music business.
You teach classes with all kinds of music students. How do you make it interesting for everyone?
I love teaching. I love the whole activity of teaching and engaging with the student. So no matter if they’re vocal students or instrumentalists, I think I teach something practical that students can take into their own experience. Whether they’re guitarists, instrumentalists, vocalists—to be able to read music at sight is something that has practical use.
How do you stay active in music outside the classroom?
I have sung with the Lira Ensemble—a professional group of singers, dancers and orchestra specializing in Polish music—since 1990. I work most weekends as a substitute musician for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and work as a cantor, choir member or pianist at Catholic masses.
Any advice for future Columbia students?
I would hope that they would get around the Chicago music scene, not only in blues and jazz and in pop music, but in the classical realm. We have the world’s greatest orchestra, we’ve got [the] Lyric Opera. I would hope they would get to experience a lot of the performing opportunities here in Chicago. And go to the Art Institute! Open yourself up. Have as many experiences as you can in a major arts center.