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MSU music department helps Neumann find her personal rhythm

When talking to music education major Erin Neumann, one almost has to lean into the conversation and listen carefully to hear her thoughtful answers. Yet, when you see her performing on her violin, you quickly realize what you thought was shyness is really quiet confidence, produced from years of fine tuning a natural attraction and hard-earned talent.

Bismarck native Neumann grew up surrounded by music. Both parents are string players who parlayed their talents into teaching music.

"When I was a kid, probably around age three, I said 'I want to play what my mommy plays,' which at that time was the violin," said Neumann. "As I got older, there were times I wanted to quit, but thankfully, my parents never let me. Now I wouldn't ever give it up."

Neumann said she always knew she would study music in college. In high school, she'd studied privately with Minot State University music professor Jon Rumney, so choosing MSU to further her music education was a natural transition.

"In high school, friends would ask, 'what are you going to study in college?' and my answer was always music. What else was I going to do?" Neumann said. "I came to MSU for the music department and music faculty, specifically Dr. Rumney."

Through the Honors Program, Neumann discovered a personal rhythm that changed her perspective and her academic aspirations.

"I was always quiet and shy growing up, but through college I have come into my own," she said. "My Honors classes are discussion based and require students to talk to peers. I loved the experience of discovering different people and different backgrounds. Now I am more willing to be open to telling someone my feelings or opinions."

"As a freshman, I originally wanted to get my degree in education, then attend graduate school and major in performance," she added. "Since then, I've taken classes in education, childhood development and psychology and worked with kids. Now I realize I really want to teach, and not use it to fall back on," Neumann said.

Even though Neumann will graduate this spring and student teach in the fall, her learning is far from over. In addition to her busy MSU music agenda, Neumann is a music intern at Zion Lutheran Church, where she works with kids and sings in the choir. She also takes organ lessons and substitutes at local churches when needed. Her favorite class was American Sign Language because it gave her the opportunity to study a new language and culture.

"I love learning how the brain works in different situations," she said. "How in a string quartet four brains mesh or don't mesh (to create music); how in an elementary education class we learn different ways to engage kids; how movement keeps the brain working."

Graduate school some day remains a possibility as well.

"My dad really loves what he does," Neumann said. "Grad school, teaching, performing, whatever, I would also like to really enjoy what I'm doing too."