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March 6, 2023

Student Spotlight: Madeline Couch’24 (Music Education)

“We come to college to figure out what we want to do  with our lives, but it is so easy to let our identity get wrapped up in our achievements and what we consider ‘success.’ ... Whether or not we are ‘successful’ in the eyes of the world, we are loved by Him and created with intention and a purpose.”

Madeline Couch’24 (Music Education) looks forward to showing the love of Christ to her future music students. She followed her gut in coming to Roberts and has reaped the rewards of supportive classmates, encouraging professors, and a deeper relationship with God.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

Simply put, my goal is to teach music. I know I enjoy teaching, and I know I love music so I put the two together and ta-da! I’m a Music Education major. 

I’m still not sure what age group I want to teach, so hopefully student teaching will help me figure that out a bit, but I am sure I will be happy no matter where I end up as long as it involves music and working with others.

Madeline’s senior photo

Why did you choose to come to Roberts? How do you think your Roberts education will help you reach your goals?

I chose Roberts because of the Global Honors Program and the Music Department. 

At the beginning of my college search I had very little interest in Roberts because I initially intended to go to school in Texas. I was invited to the Academic Scholarship weekend at Roberts, then something just felt “right.” The program was a wonderful experience that taught me so much about the importance of intentionality and loving your neighbor no matter who they are.

Madeline with her friend Abigail during the Global Honors Puerto Rico trip

How has Roberts impacted your spiritual journey?

I went to a public high school where I was one of about ten professing Christians, which sounds like it would be a challenging environment to be in, but it was actually easy to be sure in my belief system simply because it was the opposite of everyone else’s. 

Being at Roberts, however, I have had the opportunity to meet people from so many different Christian and non-Christian backgrounds, and conversations with these friends have challenged me to try to answer questions and contemplate ideas surrounding my faith that I had never considered before. This has been challenging in some ways, but it has also pushed me to lean on God when I have questions and doubts.

Madeline playing with her classmates

What is the best thing about studying your major?

Studying music at Roberts is such a beautiful experience because of how supportive the community is. 

For example: last semester, I was particularly nervous about a Jazz Combo performance. As I was backstage, jumping up and down, panicking, a friend of mine turned to me and said, “don’t worry, it’s jazz! If you fall, we’ll catch you.” His statement rings true of this entire department. The people here celebrate with you on your good days, and are there to catch you on your bad days. 

At the annual Christmas tree lighting with her friend, Amethyst

Who is your favorite professor and what’s one way they’ve helped you?

Oh I have so many wonderful professors, how could I pick just one! One of my favorite professors is Dr. Paul Shewan. 

I very much admire his passion for music and his work ethic, but even more so, I appreciate how he makes his students feel valued as members of the ensemble and as individuals. I hope that someday I can do that too, because I see the difference this makes in ensemble culture and how meaningful it is to people. 

A  while back, Dr. Shewan gave me probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: he told me to remember that “our righteousness comes from Christ alone.” A.k.a., we are not “good enough” because of what we do - we are all human, imperfect, and sinful, and therefore on our own we can never be “good enough” - but in Christ, we don’t have to be “good enough,” because He has washed us clean and declared us “righteous.”

Dr. Shewan lives this out in how treats his students: he has seen me fail, but because he sees his students as individuals who are loved by God, and not as people who are defined by their accomplishments or lack thereof, he continues to encourage and teach me and others.

What’s one thing you’ve learned while you’ve served as the Wind Ensemble President?

I’ve learned that a good leader knows how to recognize the strengths and talents of their team, take a step back, and trust them to do their job well. 

The wind ensemble cabinet is phenomenal. They are all such hard workers and are so talented at what they do - and it's fun to be able to work with a team of your friends. 

Madeline with her pet fish, Loki

If you could help everyone understand one thing, what would it be and why?

Our worth does not come from what we do, but is instead rooted in the fact that God loves us. 

We come to college to figure out what we want to “do” with our lives, but it is so easy to let our identity get wrapped up in our achievements and what we consider “success.” Our culture tells us that our goal in life is to be “successful:” to get really good at what you do and rise to the top in your field. But as Christians, our identity is found in Christ, and our goal in life should be to serve Him. Whether or not we are “successful” in the eyes of the world, we are loved by Him and created with intention and a purpose. 

Think about that - the literal Creator of the universe made you and loves you more deeply than you could ever fathom. And not only that, he sacrificed Himself, in spite of your failures, so that you could be with Him. This does not mean that we should not work hard, but it does mean that we are not loved any more or any less because of what we accomplish. 

I personally struggle with finding my identity in my work and accomplishments, but when I remember that I do not need to prove myself to anyone (even myself) because I am secure in His love, there is freedom in that. I wish I could help others (and myself) understand this more deeply. If we did, I think we would all be a lot happier in our pursuit to master our crafts and achieve our goals.

Faculty Feedback

Paul Shewan Headshot

Madeline (Maddie) is an extraordinary person! As one of the hardest workers I have encountered during my many years as professor at Roberts, she has blossomed into an accomplished clarinetist. Even more importantly, as a devoted follower of Christ, she explicitly shows God's love to those with whom she encounters. I am so excited to see where God leads her as a successful future music educator. I know that whatever she does, it will be special!

Paul Shewan, Professor of Instrumental Studies

Dina Alexander Headshot

“A fine clarinetist and overall musician, Madeline plans to teach instrumental music when she graduates in 2024. In addition to being a fabulous student and musician, she is faithful, loving, and kind. Madeline is sure to have a successful and influential career in teaching.”

Dina Alexander, Professor of Music Education (Instrumental Music)

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