Natalie Nielsen loves her job as the band instructor at North Cedar Community Schools in Stanwood, Iowa.
“It doesn’t even feel like work,” she says.
She says it’s not an accident.
Simpson prepares music students for future success in a variety of ways, Nielsen says, and it starts on the first day.
Nielsen, who grew up in Norwalk, didn’t initially plan to attend Simpson. She was looking at a larger school.
“Simpson was a smaller campus, and I just felt like the professors would know my name, and they would care if I was in class and they would contact me if I wasn’t. At the other school, it felt like I’d be a number because there are so many people there.”
The smaller classes sizes means more personal attention and coaching from faculty members.
Dr. David Camwell, associate professor of music, “just has a great sense of humor,” Nielsen says. “He makes a good situation out of everything. If I was having problems in one of my lessons – or, literally, with anything – he would just do what needed to be done to make it better.
“He not only cared about my saxophone playing or how I was doing in school, he also asked me how life was going, how my family was. He cares.”
Nielsen said she was impressed by how much effort Dr. Mike Eckerty, assistant professor of music, invested in recruiting non-music majors to participate in Simpson’s various bands. “He’s great at that,” she says.
“I was involved in every single instrument ensemble you can think of,” she says.
Nielsen says Simpson did a great job of preparing her for a teaching career by lining up opportunities with area high schools to help out with their bands.
“We were thrown in front of a high school jazz band and were there to work with them an entire semester,” she says. “They invited us back the next year. It’s great experience.”
Nielsen said she has been encouraging her youngster sister to attend Simpson.
“For me, it was a great experience,” she says. “I wasn’t going to live on campus at first. But I did, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. I became best friends with my roommate. I’m about to be maid of honor at one of my roommate’s wedding.”
As much as she loves her teaching job, Nielsen said there’s one thing that might lure her away – the chance to relive her Simpson experience.
“I seriously miss it every single day,” she says. “I wish I could live there all the time.”