Meet Loyda Hjelte, Instructor of Music for CPA Preschool and Lower School. Ms. Hjelte can be found spreading a joyful noise and energy all over campus. Students love spending time in her class, and her passion for music education is evident in the bright, colorful, and detailed curriculum she lays out for students age 2 to fifth grade.
Please enjoy this Q&A with Ms. Hjelte:
Tell us about your journey learning about music growing up and developing a career in music education.
Since I was very young, I remember going to church and bringing my special handheld pandero which is like a carefully decorated tambourine with ribbons flowing each way. I would play and play all throughout the singing portion of the service. I guess I had rhythm, because no one stopped me! As a child, I loved “playing church” with my five sisters. I would always be the one leading them, singing the hymns and songs. I also became interested in playing instruments such as the accordion, guitar, and piano. Playing with the church worship leaders was one of my most favorite experiences. Then, the Lord opened doors for me to lead children’s music ministry all around the Dominican Republic. My father was an evangelist, and we traveled with him. I would sing before he preached and sometimes after. I loved it when there were a lot of children. I will never forget leading thousands of them in praise and worship. This is when I discovered that music was going to be part of my future.
I attended Toccoa Falls College where I received a Bachelor of Science in Music Performance. I also earned a master’s degree in Music Education from Boston University. I began teaching private piano lessons to young students when I was in college. It was not until my three kids attended a small, private Christian school that I began teaching music in a classroom setting. I am passionate about helping students develop a lifelong love and appreciation for music through playing, singing, and moving.
What do you love most about teaching at CPA?
I love playing games, dancing and moving, and just being creative with the kids. They have such a wonderful, genuine faith and unlimited creativity and energy. I love participating with them. Most importantly, I love teaching them about the power of their voice; how they can use it to speak and sing truth to others and themselves.
What is your favorite unit to teach?
I love classical music, and the orchestra unit is one of my favorites. We discover the lives of many wonderful composers throughout different historical periods and their famous symphonies such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. We also learn about the conductor, the family of instruments, melody, harmony, and so on.
Why do you think music education is important for children developing at this age? Music is so important, especially at a young age. There’s ample research to suggest it not only supercharges the young brain, but it also helps boost creativity, increases memory, reduces anxiety, improves listening skills, and develops critical pathways for emotional expression.
How do you experience music outside of teaching?
When time permits, I love sitting by my piano and composing instrumental pieces.
What music do you like to listen to or see live?
My preference is classical: Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. But I listen to all sorts of music genres including country, Latin, international, and jazz. I just attended (with the wonderful CPA Arts Department) the “Behold the Lamb” concert at the Ryman Theater featuring Andrew Peterson. Fantastic show and worship!
What is a special memory you have from teaching at CPA that you'd like to share?
I have so many of them it is hard to choose, but every time we gather around the piano in the music room and just sing together, seeing their beautiful faces, and hearing their sweet and pure voices so close. This is absolutely my favorite. It makes me want to cry every time because I feel so blessed and honored to have a job like this. Your children are so precious! I love them so much!
What are things every parent should know about music education for their children?
Written on the large back wall mirror of the LS Music classroom it says: “Music is a fair and glorious gift from God” (Luther). It is my desire that each of the students that pass through the classroom learn that indeed music is a gift, given to us not to keep for ourselves, but to share generously with others. With it we can touch not only God’s heart as we honor and worship him, but others as we share learned truth and express beauty.