SOMD Student Discovers Passion for Music Education with Guidance from Alum

By Kristen Hudgins 


Lauren Haendler always imagined she’d become a lawyer. On her high school constitutional law team in Portland, she aspired to a career as a civil rights attorney to contribute to making the world a better place. But as she approached graduation, her choir director encouraged her to consider another path: music education.  
The suggestion wasn’t completely out of left field. Lauren had shown an interest in music from a young age and her parents fostered that interest, signing her up for voice lessons and encouraging her as she belted Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” in her second-grade talent show and as she took on the character Morticia in The Addams Family musical in high school. "I wanted to sing for people whatever chance I got!” she exclaimed.


Lauren performs in The Addams Family 

Despite the majority of her extracurriculars being music-related, Lauren had never explored the arts as a potential career. That is, until her choir director and SOMD alum, Karen Bohart, suggested it. “My senior year of high school, she asked why I hadn’t considered being a music teacher and I hadn't ever given it any thought!” Lauren recalled. “I didn’t even think that was a possibility, but once I thought about it, I said, ‘Oh, that fits.’”

With Bohart’s endorsement of the SOMD program and Lauren’s previous positive experience with Oregon Bach Festival’s SFYCA program, where she stayed on campus for a few weeks and loved it, the University of Oregon became the clear choice.

Unfortunately, her freshman year coincided with the onset of COVID, so online classes and the absence of performance opportunities were the norm. But when her sophomore year began, she was back in the classroom rediscovering her passion for music. “It was immediately 100 times better!” she recalled. 

Through SOMD’s chamber choir, she took her performance acumen to the next level by traveling to Spain for a concert tour— a challenging and rewarding experience. “I was handed the most difficult thing I’ll likely ever sing in my career: Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles,” she said. “I’ve never worked harder on anything! I’ve also never been in a group of other singers that were also so focused and dedicated. It was magic.”


As a student, Lauren has also taken on a leadership role as President of UO’s Collegiate National Association for Music Education (NAfME) chapter. She organizes trips to conferences and leads their bi-weekly meetings. “It’s really important to me that we foster the community we have here with the music education cohort because I want us to make connections that continue into our professional careers,” she said. “I think it will be special to have that support.”

In her final months as an undergraduate, most of Lauren’s time is spent teaching choir at Springfield High School. “It’s really exciting to teach there and I love those kids!” she said. Her time there has further cemented her belief that she was meant to be a high school choir director. She hopes to do so in Portland, where she says the music program is lacking. As an alum of Portland Public Schools, she observed the inconsistency of the music program throughout elementary school, with music classes available one year and cut the next. 

"It’s consistently underfunded,” she said. “Portland Public Schools needs good music teachers and good music programs, so I’m passionate about going back and giving kids a quality music program. I want all kids to have the experience of being in a program where they can participate in the highest level of music making that they’re capable of. I think all kids deserve that.” 

She believes students also deserve a teacher who is a competent performer. That’s why she is considering continuing her education to earn a master’s degree in vocal performance. “It’s crucial to me as a teacher that I’m a competent performer,” she said. “Especially as a young woman, when I first enter the classroom, students tend to view me as an older sister, but I’m finding that I’m gaining respect from my students through my competency.”

As she looks ahead to the future, Lauren is not only dedicated to shaping young minds in the classroom but also embracing her passion for performance outside the classroom, planning to join a choir or perform opera while teaching.