Washburn’s music faculty gains a “sound” new addition

Piano perfection: Cook-Cunningham is a new addition to the music department’s faculty at Washburn. Professor Cook-Cunningham obtained a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Kansas. 

Professor Sheri Cook-Cunningham is enjoying her first year teaching at Washburn University. 

Cook-Cunningham is originally from Kansas City and commutes daily back and forth to Topeka. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in piano performance and earned her doctorate from the University of Kansas. Cook-Cunningham took piano lessons when she was younger, so music has been a huge part of her life.

“I come from a family of music. I was born into music from generations,” said Cook-Cunningham. 

She teaches multiple classes including, Women’s Choir, Elementary/Secondary Vocal Methods, WU 101 and others. She describes her teaching style as student centered.

“I try to practice what I preach, which is talk less, do more. I try to provide an environment in which I present information, have the students perform what was presented and then I provide feedback on what was performed,” said Cook-Cunningham. 

Madison Meeks, a student currently enrolled in Elementary/Secondary Vocal Methods, agrees that Cook-Cunningham’s teaching style is very student oriented.

“She bases the class off of what we are needing the most work on and lets us lead the discussions,” said Meeks.

Meeks enjoys the way Professor Cook-Cunningham interacts with her students and encourages a safe, non-judgmental environment within her classes. Meeks is hoping to gain knowledge of how to teach choral music and vocal techniques to students of all ages, and also hopes to gain more confidence in her own abilities as a future teacher.

Cook-Cunningham explained that the way to succeed in her classes is keeping up with assigned readings, completing assignments and going to class prepared. Her vocal methods class is very interactive with the students, as they are all assigned to teach mini-lessons.  

“The topic I enjoy exploring with students is how to be an effective music teacher. That encompasses many sub-topics, such as classroom management, what to teach, and how to sequence those teachings,” said Cook-Cunningham.

When she gets away from work, she likes to spend her free time either running or biking. She also loves sports, both playing them and watching them. 

Additionally, Cook-Cunningham offered some helpful advice to exploratory students.

“Sometimes you really have to try things before you can make those decisions.  If you are not yet sure of your major, take a class or two in that area, see if it’s something you enjoy and can see yourself doing in the future,” said Cook-Cunningham.

Cook-Cunningham describes Topeka and Washburn University as a positive environment and friendly campus. She loves working here and is enjoying her classes. 

Edited by Jada Johnson, Adam White, Jason Morrison