Born to Teach

Marvelene MooreProfessor Marvelene Moore was destined to become a successful music educator.

You might say the charting of Marvelene Moore’s life’s work began before she was born.

Frank Moore was pastor of Macedonia Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Alabama, and his wife, Sadie, was the church pianist and choral director, as well as an elementary school teacher. Sadie was a talented vocalist and musician with an unfulfilled aspiration to become a music teacher.

Frank and Sadie were expecting their first and only child. From the day she learned of her pregnancy, Sadie went to the church every day except Saturday to share her love of music by playing and singing her favorite songs to the child she was carrying—Marvelene.

Today, Moore, a professor of music education in the School of Music, fondly recalls memories of her late mother.

“Mother was a music educator ahead of her time,” Moore says.

Moore explains that recent research conducted by Alexandra Lamont, a British psychologist associated with the “Child of Our Time Project” at Leicester University, found that babies can remember sounds they were exposed to as a fetus more than a year after birth. The babies in Lamont’s research sample showed a preference for the music they had been exposed to as a fetus, as measured by the time the babies spent looking toward the source of the music when it was played or sung.

Moore recalls being drawn to certain music as a child and not knowing why. Her mother recounted that Marvelene would actually interrupt her playtime to attend to music that Sadie had played for her before she was born.

Steel Drums

A musician performs with steel drums at the ninth biennial National Symposium on Multicultural Music, founded and chaired by Marvelene Moore. The 2012 symposium brought multicultural music and performers to UT’s campus as a Ready for the World event.

With constant exposure to music at home and at church, Moore evidenced natural musical talent early and began to sing solos in kindergarten, high school chorus, and church. Music lessons developed her skills with musical instruments and she eventually played violin in orchestra and mastered clarinet and bass clarinet in the band.

Upon graduation as valedictorian of Lakeside High School, Moore took her bounty of scholarship awards and headed to Talledega College, where she completed a BA degree in vocal performance. After graduation, Marvelene returned home to Decatur, where she accepted a music teacher position with her hometown school system and, quite ironically, was assigned as music education teacher at the elementary school where her mother was teaching. Students from the elementary classes were scheduled for music instruction with Moore, and it was there that she fell in love with teaching and decided to pursue graduate studies in music education.

At Vanderbilt University, Moore earned MME and EdS degrees in music education—not performance. From there she went to the University of Michigan to earn her PhD under the direction of renowned music educator James Standifer, who was on the forefront of multicultural music education.

As Standifer’s graduate assistant, Moore had an opportunity to assist him with workshops, which fueled her interest in working with music teachers and multicultural music education.

She completed postgraduate studies at the Jaques-Dalcroze Institute of Geneva, Switzerland; the Conservatory of Music at Ithaca College; the Orff Institute of the University Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria; and the Kodaly Institute in Erstegom, Hungary.

When Moore came to UT in 1978, one of the first things she did was reach out to local music teachers in Knox County to offer her first workshop.


A student bluegrass band performs at the 2012 National Symposium on Multicultural Music, chaired by Marvelene Moore.

Since then Moore has served as clinician and guest conductor for music organizations in forty-four (soon to be forty-five) states. She has presented sessions at the International Society for Music Education (ISME) conferences in South Korea, South Africa, Norway, Malaysia, the Canary Islands, Italy, China, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, to name a few.

Moore specializes in classroom music for grades K–8 and choral music for grades 3–8. She uses Jaques-Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a Swiss method of teaching music that emphasizes creative movement. Moore has received international acclaim for her teaching methods, produced an impressive list of publications, and garnered a number of awards and honors. (Read more about Moore’s remarkable career achievements.)

What drives this passionate music educator?  “My primary purpose in life is to help others become educated, especially in music, and to acquire an appreciation and respect for the value of every human life,” she says. “It is possible that music of all the arts is most conducive to understanding culture.”

Lynn Champion