NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award is given annually to a faculty member who has made an outstanding contribution to teaching. This year’s recipient, Karen Bauman Schlabaugh, has made significant contributions in both education and professional performance.
Schlabaugh, professor of music, was presented the award at Bethel College’s commencement ceremony on May 21. She works one-on-one with piano students and teaches courses in music theory and history, piano pedagogy and class piano. She also maintains an active performance schedule, both as a soloist and a collaborator with other musicians.
Brad Born, interim vice president for academic affairs, presented Schlabaugh with the award. “Karen is not only ‘a great professional musician’‚ as one student has put it,” Born said. “She is also a gifted and dedicated teacher, one who helps students nurture their own musical expertise and expression.”
Schlabaugh earned her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music in 1970, a master’s degree in music from Ithaca College in 1974 and a doctorate in music from the University of Iowa in 1981. She also spent a semester studying at the Royal College of Music in London, England, with the support of an alumni fellowship from Oberlin.
Since earning her doctorate, Schlabaugh has had numerous performance opportunities. She and her husband Merle, Bethel professor of German, lived for a year in Weierhof, Germany, where she studied organ. She has played chamber music in Michigan, Wisconsin and New York. Her work with colleagues in Wichita has led to numerous performing engagements. Locally, Schlabaugh has appeared twice as a soloist with the Newton Mid-Kansas Orchestra, and is a regular performer in the Summer Harvey County Music Festival concerts.
Most recently, she is the pianist for a CD of French Recital Favorites for clarinet and piano released last June with clarinetist James Jones of Wichita under the Centaur Records label.
Schlabaugh’s teaching career includes several years on the faculty of Skidmore College, two years at Kalona, Iowa, where she had a private piano studio, and 10 years on the faculty of Tabor College. She has been a full-time faculty member at Bethel since 1994, and has served as music department chairperson since 1998.
As a professional musician herself, Schlabaugh shapes her curriculum at a personal level for each student. She selects music that appeals to individual students‚ interests, and she designs her courses from a “performer’s perspective.”
“I try to help my students understand that studying the structure and history of music will help them to become better musicians themselves,” she said, “because they will be able use knowledge they gain to express the emotional depth of the music more effectively.”
In a self-assessment, Schlabaugh describes her philosophy of music education in the context of a liberal arts education: “I believe that liberal arts students learn about critical thinking, about the reading of texts in many disciplines, about the natural world around them and about the possibilities of living with compassion in the modern world. I want to work with students who understand and care about the world in which they live, even if I wish at times they had more time to spend in the practice room!”
“I feel deeply honored to receive the award,” Schlabaugh said. “I work very hard to make sure that students feel supported, encouraged and excited about their work, and to be recognized for my work is very gratifying.”