When Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) freshman Jovan Daniel first approached Muriel Bodley about learning to play the violin, she was skeptical. Bodley wasn’t sure the ninth grader was ready to commit to the time and dedication it takes to learn to play the delicate string instrument. Five months later, however, Bodley is pleased that she gave Daniel a chance, as he has proven his talents and is committed to practicing at least a half-hour each day. “Jovan has a wonderful ear,” she said of her pupil. “It is a pleasure to watch his face as he learns something new.”
As the orchestra director at CBA, Bodley has a tough love approach to her students and the study of string instruments. “I’m all about excellence and doing things right,” she said of her teaching philosophy. “I take it very seriously, and I expect my students to do that same. They are lucky to have this opportunity, so they must have dedication.”
Bodley has shown her dedication to teaching young people to play string instruments for over 50 years. After retiring from the Fayetteville-Manlius School District last June after 27 years, Bodley came to CBA on a part-time basis in September to teach individual music lessons and form a school orchestra. A graduate of the Crane School of Music, Bodley studied with Shinichi Suzuki and was the co-founder and past director of the Suzuki School of Syracuse. Currently, she is the conductor of the Syracuse Symphony String Orchestra and leads the Syracuse Symphony Youth String Chamber Orchestra. She is a past president of the New York State American String Teachers Association of the National School Orchestra Association. In 1995, Bodley was the recipient of the National School Orchestra Association’s Director of the Year award, a distinction of which she is particularly proud. Nationally recognized, she has performed and conducted at various venues in and around New York State.
The strings program flourished at CBA as soon as students heard of the opportunity to study with such a master.
Senior Hersh Sangani wasn’t sure he had the time to take up the violin, as he already was carrying a heavy academic and extracurricular load. He had learned the violin years ago but had since given it up. The chance to study with Bodley drew him back. Now, practicing the violin and playing in the school’s orchestra is just another element to Sangani’s already full list. “I just added it to all the other things,” he said. “Mrs. Bodley has brought it all back to me, and I’m enjoying it.” CBA students — beginner to advanced — take lessons after school at no charge. Those with enough experience are invited to perform with the school’s orchestra, which performs regularly at school events like a recent “Evening of Performance,” which also highlighted the school’s band and chorus and included a display of student art work. The orchestra also performed at a recent open house for prospective students, a welcome reception for accepted students in the Class of 2015, and at the annual Christmas concert. “We are extremely fortunate to bring the talents of Mrs. Bodley to the students at CBA,” said Brother Thomas Zoppo, FSC, principal.
“She is a wonderful addition to the fine arts program at our school and enhances the many outstanding educational opportunities this school has to offer.”
String programs are rare in Central New York schools, both public and private. According to Holly Dowd, CBA’s director of admissions, Bodley’s presence has been a factor in students seeking admission to the school. In fact, three of the ten students awarded academic scholarships as a result of this year’s entrance examination hope to study with Bodley next fall when they enter seventh grade.
In January, CBA began a pilot string program with a group of students from several area Catholic elementary schools. All beginners on the violin, the students come to CBA before school begins one morning a week to study with Bodley. “I wanted to find a way to encourage students at a younger age to study the string instruments,” said Bodley, who said the fourth, fifth and sixth graders are enjoying their lessons. Bodley believes music is an important part of education at any age. “It teaches focus, concentration, discipline and commitment,” she said. “I think music is important to the soul. It helps students de-stress from an academically rigorous day. So many of them come in after school and tell me how happy they are to be here playing their instrument after a long day.” For more information on Christian Brothers Academy, call Holly Dowd, director of admissions, at (315) 446-5960 x1231.