Educator and flutist Sonja Wurm has devoted her life to music education—a portrait of a passion for teaching.

Sonja Wurm
Sonja Wurm ©Astrid Bartl

“The greatest thing about my job is the contact I have with people,” enthuses this dedicated teacher. “You get to know your opposite, and sometimes you even end up developing friendships.” Sonja Wurm has been teaching for over twenty years now, and she’s still as passionate as ever about her work. “I knew quite early on that I wanted to do something music-related. And by the time I’d turned twelve, I was sure that the flute was my instrument,” she remembers. It was her music teacher back then who provided crucial support for her choice of a profession, even arranging an audition with a professor at the mdw. And in 1995, Sonja Wurm entered the mdw’s Instrumental Music Education programme with a focus on flute. “I’d always wanted to teach—I liked it, and it wasn’t a difficult thing for me.”

It was coincidence that eventually brought her to the elementary music education field. Wurm had already been working at the music school in Retz for ten years when its director, Gerhard Forman, asked her to take over “a couple hours’ worth of early childhood music education” from one of her colleagues. “The topic wasn’t unfamiliar, since I already had my own kids, and I set about gathering together some appropriate teaching tools to plan the lessons. I already knew the basics from my studies at the mdw, but at age 19, I’d never have thought that it would someday be this fun for me,” she remembers with a smile. In order to dig deeper into the material, Wurm—who’d graduated ten years before—enrolled in and completed the mdw’s Elementary Music Education programme. It was an investment that definitely paid off: “Lots of parents approached me back then to ask whether we offered anything for even younger children, so we expanded our offerings to kids aged three-to-four. And today, my youngest are just three months old.”

The most important thing for Sonja Wurm is to motivate children and spark their love of music, possibly also motivating them to learn an instrument themselves later on. Thanks to her own love of music and passion for what she does, Sonja Wurm—supported by her enthusiastic colleagues—has expanded her elementary music education focus to an enormous degree, and today she also works in preschool and primary school settings. “I presently have children whom I’ve taught from an age of just a few months all the way up to their second year in primary school. Which creates a lot of mutual trust, so you can really build on something. It’s great work as well as a big responsibility.”

This responsibility also manifests itself in her work as the person in charge of youth activities in her district at the NÖ Blasmusikverband [Lower Austrian Wind Music Association]. Her main responsibilities there are organising the wind chamber music competition “Musik in kleinen Gruppen” as well as the music workshop that the organisation’s Hollabrunn District working group puts on during summer break. The latter event focuses on enrichment: Between 140 and 160 kids play in the orchestra, take instrument lessons, sing in the choir, and take part in courses on topics that include breath training, music and motion, and even body percussion. Interested participants can also earn the Lower Austrian Wind Music Association’s “Leistungsabzeichen” (Achievement Badge) in bronze or silver.

Wurm also takes great joy in her own artistic doings. She considers it a privilege to play before an audience, no matter whether it’s at the town chapel in Retz or with one of the diverse collection of ensembles in which she’s a member. “It’s important to do your own playing, too, because only then can you also be a good teacher.” And her advice for young educators? “The most important thing is to love teaching—you can never let that get lost. And you need to constantly engage in exchange and further your own training.” That’s advice she eagerly follows herself, being the “further training type”, as she puts it. Her secret is to keep developing, which she says is essential to staying motivated. Alongside her numerous activities, she’s also the elementary music education coordinator at Musikschulmanagement Niederösterreich, the organisation that oversees Lower Austria’s music school system. And the next thing she plans to do is stand for election as provincial youth officer of the Lower Austrian Wind Music Association. How she manages all this? “I love my profession. Everything I do, I do for my students. And I couldn’t imagine a better job.”

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