When Mitos Andaya Hart looks back on her arrival in Durban, South Africa, to teach music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she remembers people walking around with plastic bags strapped to their feet in place of shoes.
“On one side of the hill, you would see these great big mansions with gates,” said Andaya Hart, now an associate professor of choral music at Temple. “The other side of the same hill you would see these squatter camps where people were living in boxes and no electricity. We are so much more well-off in America.”
In South Africa, Andaya Hart said people expressed their appreciation for music far differently than many Americans do—people sang and danced as they walked the streets of South Africa. To them, music was an essential part of their daily routine.
“Music has made me aware of how diverse our world is,” Andaya Hart said. “People are coming from so many different backgrounds, so many different situations, so many things. Everyone has their own story and everyone has their own battle.”
Andaya Hart also taught in Australia at the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide before returning to America and receiving her doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Kansas.
In 2012, Andaya Hart began working at Temple full-time as the associate director of choral activities. She is also the conductor of Temple University Singers, TempleTen and PhilHarmonia.
Andrew Shaw, a senior voice performance major, was a freshman the year Andaya Hart began her first year teaching at Temple and spent his first three semesters singing in TUS under her direction.
“Her passion for music and singing inspires the same in her students,” Shaw said. “The thing I appreciated most about her was the fact that she did a lot of demanding repertoire. She always knew how to push us musically to make us get better and show off our abilities and accomplishments.”
“Even now that I am no longer a member of the choir, every time we run into each other, we’ll have a conversation,” Shaw said. “She’s very invested in each of her students outside the ensemble. She has grown to be a musical mentor for me.”
Sophomore music education major Alessandro Siravo, who used to sing in TUS, said Andaya Hart’s conducting style is “infectious.”
“When someone in front of you on the conductor podium is working so hard toward a certain sound and a certain style and cares so much about it, the students also care about it too,” he said.
Andaya Hart said even more than the exposure to foreign musical techniques and instruments, she values the “people experience” she gained by teaching students in different countries.
“I just developed people skills,” she said. “I am realizing more and more how amazing the power of singing together can be. That’s something that never changes. … It is the human factor, how it feeds the soul.”
“It sounds cliché, but music does not have boundaries.”
True to her international experience, Andaya Hart’s teaching style also has very few boundaries—in her classes, she teaches students a variety of subjects, like jazz, modern and early Baroque and Renaissance music.
“She’s had a lot of experience teaching music that’s not normal Western music,” Siravo said. “I think that’s given her an appreciation for music that’s not necessarily typical, but still has a lot of educational value.”
Andaya Hart said for students, singing as a group comes with a sense of belonging, and she wants her students to experience that in her choir room. Bonds formed by making music together grow the conductor-to-student relationship as well as relationships between students.
“There is an exchange,” Andaya Hart said. “It is not a wall. They teach me things as I teach them things.”
Grace Shallow can be reached at email@example.com.