If you’ve heard a few extra tunes rising from the halls, fields, and stages of the Academy this year, you have AHN’s newest music teacher, Mrs. Nancy Mizzell, to thank. With a passion for music and a drive to increase the instrumental presence of AHN’s Arts Department, Mrs. Mizzell is bringing big changes to the Academy's music program!
A Tampa native, Mizzell attended Blake high school where she majored in Orchestra. She later went on to college in Georgia, majoring in Piano Performance. Not quite ready to enter the world of teaching, Mizzell joined the National Guard Reserves, and within one year of completing her military training, she was deployed to Guantanamo Bay for all of 2014.
While serving in the military, her commander recommended that she audition for an open position in the Army Band. After reviewing her audition tape, Mizzell was offered a spot in the band and was sent to the Army School of Music upon returning from deployment.
Fast-forward a few years, and Nancy was beginning to think about transitioning back to civilian life, saying, “I had taught private music lessons before in college, and while I was in the Army Band I was thinking about transitioning and that’s when I found Academy Prep. They didn’t have a music program at all, so I signed up to do their AmeriCorps position for one year to help develop a program. The next year they wanted to take me on as a full-time employee, and so that’s how I got my start into full-time teaching.”
This August, Nancy began a music teaching position within the Academy Arts Department, where she is currently teaching Introduction to Instrumental, Instrumental Ensemble, Percussion, and AP Music Theory. Next semester she will also be teaching Introduction to Voice.
One of the biggest changes we have seen so far in the music department is the performance aspect of each class and their presence at school events. “I like to teach to perform. I think any music or performing arts teacher will say that. It really brings what the girls are learning in the classroom full circle. My goal overall for the program is just for it to grow and for there to be a real presence on campus and at events, because it seems like that hasn’t been there. You know, the Quarter Notes have a great presence, and I want the music program to be on that same level. Especially with percussion, I think they can have that platform. They can be on the field, outside at games, and create a whole different atmosphere,” says Mizzell.
Performing at events including Jaguar Spirit and the Quarter Notes Christmas concert, the girls have had many new opportunities this year to work on this performance aspect. When asked how she thinks the students are reacting to the changes in their music program, Mizzell stated, “I think they are reacting really well! I have such a large percussion class, and I don’t think they really knew what to expect from it at first. Since there wasn’t that presence in the AHN community before, they might have thought it would just be an easy class to satisfy their art credit, but I wanted to really challenge each them and have them learn to perform. I was worried at first…but nobody dropped the class! They all performed well!”
Moving forward, she hopes to continue to expand the program and help each student realize the important role that music plays in their education as a whole. “It helps all of their academics. In fact, it’s scientifically proven to do so. Just the discipline that it takes to actually learn an instrument. That is a skill that you need in life with everything. I think that’s why it’s so important."