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Shooting the Breeze with Valerie Boehm


You have recently been named the director of the Choral and Theatre Departments at PHS. Tell me a little about your background.

    In 2004, I graduated PHS and began studying at New York University as a music education major. There were a few experiences that were particularly influential. Traveling with Dean Mary Brabeck and classmates to Mexico to do research was momentous for me. As was interning at the Professional Performing Arts School where I helped the school counselor run a morning meeting for a small My student teaching experiences at the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music and the Yung Wing School (K-5) in Chinatown had a meaningful impact as well. I graduated from NYU in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music degree. 

    I attended the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, affectionately called HGSE (pronounced Hug-zee). We were a very close group. I chose HGSE because it’s the birth-place of research in the arts (Project Zero) and it had one of the only programs in the country where I could study multiple art forms in the context of education.
    One of my most unique classes was led by Dr. Eleanor Duckworth. She taught our class “Critical Explorations” at the young age of 76, and the purpose of this class was to understand more about the learning process and specifically, how children know and understand.         I graduated from Harvard in 2011 with a Master of Education degree.

Why did you chose NYU for your undergraduate work?
    Its location in the heart of New York City. I loved Pickens County and still do, but I wanted a polar opposite experience. I had attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan between my junior and senior year of high school. It was the first time I had really been surrounded by such a diverse group of people for an extended period of time. That experience more than any other really encouraged me to seek diversity in my college experience. I learned and grew so much from being around those with a different cultural background than mine, and I didn’t want that to stop when the summer ended. I applied a lot of different places, including schools in Georgia, but NYU just felt right and I knew the second my feet hit the pavement in New York that I belonged there.

How did you like living in New York?
    I always say that I didn’t need to study abroad because living in New York City was like having the whole world at my fingertips. I moved out of the NYU dorms my junior year. Just within eyesight of my apartment were Afghan, Chinese, Thai, Israeli, and Japanese restaurants. Living in Hell’s Kitchen put me right in the middle of Lincoln Center (the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet) and the Theatre District. Add my favorite art museums in the mix and it was heaven! The downside was it was expensive and well, I’ll never take a car trunk or an in-home washer and dryer for granted. It was difficult schlepping groceries and laundry up four flights of stairs!

What have you been doing since you finished college?
    I got my first teaching job at P.S. 8, The Luis Belliard School in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood.         After graduating from Harvard, I moved back to Georgia and got a job at Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton. I worked there from 2011-2015 and taught kindergarten through ninth grade choir, general music, and band. I also founded and managed the school’s before and after school enrichment program.
    On a more personal note, I married the love of my life, Marc Boehm, in 2012. He is a professional trombonist and we share the same vision and passion for the arts. We have an adorable Boston Terrier, Maizy who loves our musical household and shows it by “singing” along with us everytime we play or sing.

What instruments do you play? What is your musical focus?
    As a music education major, I had to learn to play all instruments very basically, so I know the fundamentals of most instruments in the string, brass, percussion, and woodwind family. My primary instruments are voice and clarinet. I enjoy playing the guitar as well, though I’m still a beginner. As far as focus, I love musicals and opera because they combine every art form.  I am an arts integrationist and that’s why I feel theatre and opera are my calling. You can learn about everything through those disciplines! In my free time, I enjoy singing with the Cherokee Chorale and playing with the Georgia Wind Symphony.

Are you looking forward to working with both choral and drama students?
    Oh, so much!  I have already met or have spoken with many of my new students and they are some of the most eager I have ever met. I feel blessed and grateful that I will have an opportunity to work with them in the coming years. 
    The arts teach us the essential skills of discipline, dedication, expression, and reflection. These habits of mind had a significant impact on my academic successes and gave me the confidence and independence to look beyond my comfort zone. I am excited to guide students in these essential life lessons, and doing this while teaching the art forms that give me so much joy is a dream come true. 

What's your most prized possession?
    My house! It was my great aunt and uncle’s that they built around 1960. Marc and I remodeled it (think less faux wood paneling and shag carpet) and we love it so much. Family is so important to us and we love having memories of them around us every day in our home.

Finish the following sentences: If I had a super power it would be....
    Flight, because I love to travel! 

I never leave home without…
    My cell phone and, as an admitted caffeine junkie, an iced coffee!