By Dr. Marchéta Williams, Director Visual and Performing Arts
MADERA UNIFIED AND Berenda Elementary welcomed new music teacher Brooke Ferdinandsen. Hitting the ground running like a pro, she has one of the most extensive music programs in the district.
Born and raised in Fresno, Brooke grew up with music. Following in the footsteps of her older sister, she wanted to learn an instrument. She began the clarinet in 5th grade, and things changed in high school. “I got to high school and saw “a million clarinet players, and made the decision to switch to the oboe.” Brooke says she continues to practice her oboe “to keep her chops up,” which is an understatement if you know her. Brooke is in high demand in the Central Valley. She plays the oboe in various ensembles: The Sequoia Symphony, Wind Symphony of Clovis, Hamilton Wind Quintet, and fills in as an oboist for several groups and multiple churches. Everyone wants to work with her. They say, “We Want Brooke.”
When asked about influential teachers in her life, she spoke of her elementary music teacher. “She was one teacher at the school, built an entire culture at the school, very good, very kind to people. I had a place there, and my identity was in music.”
Graduating with Honors from Fresno State, she was a member of the Smittcamp Honors College (paid tuition and housing). While there, she was in the Department of Arts and Humanities Honors Program, receiving additional scholarship money. To close out Brooke’s college biography, she was accepted into the President’s Quintet, an ensemble that awarded her more distinction, and you guessed it, more money. It can definitely pay to study and to practice. The daughter of two high school teachers, who set a high work ethic for her, “If you want a car, you’ll have to pay for it.” I know. I say WOW for you. Again. “I worked from Age 17. I was never without a job,” said Brooke.
Brooke’s favorite part of the job is, “Being the music teacher of the school. The kids are the best part of the job!” Brooke shared her challenges saying, “because I work with every single grade, five different music fields, I have a lot of different things that I have to plan for. It is a big workload, but because my school is so great, I would not change it for the world.”
I asked her, “What is so great about Berenda Elementary?” She responded with, “the support of the administration, and the comradery of all of the teachers.” For her future plans, Brooke plans to keep on teaching, playing the oboe, and also getting married this summer. She shared that her fiance is a computer engineer.
Did I mention that Berenda Elementary teachers voted her teacher of the year? I asked her how that felt. Her response was, “I was really shocked. I did not expect it at all. Getting that is a sentiment from the whole school in support of what I do.” I was going to mention that Brooke has over 150 students in her choir, but that would just make you say, “Wow” again. I told you she was more than a teacher of the year.