Meet Todd Van Kekerix '04
Director of enrichment programs at The New School for Music Study
Princeton, New Jersey
— music & business administration majors
Q. How did you choose Augustana?
A. I felt welcomed by the strong sense of community at Augustana. I was also drawn to the vibrancy of the music department and the opportunity to do supervised teaching in the Augustana Preparatory Piano Program. This was something most undergraduate degrees did not offer. Unfortunately, I don't think that this program exists anymore. Oh, I did receive some scholarship, so that helped!
Life at Augie
Q. Favorite class and why?
A. My favorite class would have to be my J-term class I took in New Zealand. I felt like it was one long spring break trip, because it was summer there. No seriously, we got to travel the entire country for a month and escape the South Dakota winter. If I had to do it all over again, I would have studied a different place every January. To those undergraduates reading this, look into it! Get out of your comfort zone and explore an entirely different part of the world (and earn credit too!). Another favorite course would have to be the capstone course I took with Dr. Haar and Dr. Looney. I'm ashamed that I can't recall the name of it.
Q. Favorite professor and why?
A. I have two favorites. Dr. Andrews was my professor of piano for all four years. He developed my skills in a way that I couldn't have anticipated my first day at Augustana. He was a tough guy and didn't let me get by with any slacking. I appreciate his excellent tutelage more and more as the years go by. My other favorite professor was Dick English, who has since passed away. I took several business courses with him and his sense of humor was something that made me look forward to that class every day.
Q. Best Augie memory?
A. My favorite Augustana memory would have to be my senior recital. It was a musical celebration of my accomplishments of my four years studying with Dr. Andrews. I also have many fond memories of the Christmas Vespers that the Music Department put on every year.
Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.?
A. After Augustana, I continued my education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I received by Masters in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. I ended up studying with a professor named Mr. Mouledous. He was the same teacher that Dr. Andrews (my professor of piano at Augustana) had studied with. In fact, the first year I was at SMU, I was invited to play on a recital commemorating Mr. Mouledous' 50th anniversary of teaching at SMU! The two years of Master's degree courses went by too quickly and I wasn't ready to move on from my studies with Mr. Mouledous. I auditioned to stay an additional year to complete an Artist Certificate and had the great fortune of splitting my piano studies between Alfred Mouledous and Alessio Bax.
Finally, after 7 years in school I decided it was time for a change and to enter the real world. The real world ended up taking me to the Northeast to one of the most famous community music schools in the nation. It was there I was granted a teaching position at The New School for Music Study located in Princeton, New Jersey. I teach private and group piano lessons and love every minute of it.
Q. Job title?
A. Currently, I'm the Director of Enrichment Programs at The New School for Music Study. In addition, I'm on the faculty at Kean University in Union, New Jersey where I teach College Class Piano, a Piano Pedagogy course and private lessons. I also teach several private students in Hoboken, NJ where I currently reside.
Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?
A. I'm living the life of a teaching musician, so every day is slightly different. I do have a set teaching schedule based on the school calendar. I perform frequently throughout the year in different capacities: solo, ensemble and accompanying. One of the highlights of my performance experiences has to be when we as a faculty played at Carnegie Hall in October 2012 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The New School for Music Study.
Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?
A. One challenge is bringing my best self to every lesson I teach. There aren't too many professions where there is so much one on one time. What's so rewarding in this context is that if a student stays with me from the time they begin piano lessons until they graduate high school; next to their parents I'm probably the person they have spent the most time with. I'm really afforded such a great opportunity to make an impression on these young musicians’ lives.
Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
A. Something that stands out to me is having one of my students be chosen to play at Carnegie Hall. Seeing the joy that brought a 12-year old was so rewarding.
Q. What’s next for you professionally?
A. I'm tossing around the idea of returning to school to complete a doctoral degree.
Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?
A. Enjoy and take advantage of every moment while you are at Augustana. The time goes by too quickly. In addition to your studies, foster great relationships with your professors because you never know when they may be able to lend a helping hand.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. That' I'm able to wake up each day being able to do something I thoroughly enjoy. I wouldn't be in my current roles had I not spent time at Augustana and fostered great relationships with not only the students but also the faculty.
Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?
A. When one is educated in a Liberal Arts setting, I believe that person is inclined to reflect about different perspectives and to think about life in a broader manner. After all, that is the point of a liberal arts education. Being required to take classes in so many different subject areas certainly instills in a person a tremendous respect for those who've made a certain subject area their expertise. I want to thank Augustana for gifting me with a wider lens of how I look at the world.