Carmel Del Mar music teacher receives ‘2013 Profiles in Music Education Award’

By Karen Billing

Carmel Del Mar music teacher Cinda Peck was recently leading rehearsals for the upcoming winter concert when the kids hit a note so amazingly — Vienna Boys Choir-style perfectly — that she burst into tears. One concerned little boy asked if they had done something wrong and she replied that no, they had done something exactly right.

Then the boy queried, “So if you’re not crying we are doing it wrong?”

It is special moments like this that have kept Peck in the classroom in the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) for 22 years.

“I love what I do,” said Peck. “I have the best job in the world.”

In November, Peck was a recipient of the 2013 Profiles in Music Education Award from the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory. Peck was nominated by Lauren Widney, a former student whom Peck taught more than 20 years ago as a music aide at Del Mar Hills Academy.

“It was a huge surprise and such an honor, especially to come from a former student of mine,” Peck said.

In Widney’s nomination letter, she wrote how Peck influenced her as a youngster and helped guide her toward a career in music. Peck received her award at a concert at the Escondido Performing Arts Center where the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory ensembles performed. Even more touching than the fact that a former student nominated her, Peck and her fellow DMUSD music teachers who attended noted that about 70 percent of the students in the ensembles came through Del Mar.

“It was really fun for us to see that the kids continued to pursue music,” Peck said.

Peck is a Kansas-native who earned her degrees in music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas. There are several University of Kansas “Jayhawks” at Carmel Del Mar, including office administrative assistant Ann Hoffman, who was one of Peck’s college classmates.

Peck moved to San Diego with her husband Rod, a Navy pilot she met when they were both working for Continental Airlines. Her son, Logan, is now an F18 Navy pilot based in Japan and her recently married daughter, Marin, is a physical therapist at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest.

Peck took the job as an music aide at Del Mar Hills Academy in 1991. In 1997, she left the Hills for Carmel Del Mar where she briefly taught fifth grade before taking over as the music teacher. She has been at Carmel Del Mar for the last 17 years, living three houses down from the school and walking to work every day.

Music has always been a part of Peck’s life. She started playing the piano in the second grade and played the clarinet from fifth grade through college. She was always a singer as well, singing in choral ensembles through high school and college, and she still sings alto in the La Jolla Symphony Chorus.

All Carmel Del Mar students have music in their Extended Studies Curriculum rotation. They learn music history, musical notation, perform in musical theater and all learn to play at least two instruments a year, be it guitar, keyboard, recorder or one of the Orff instruments, such as xylophones.

Peck and other district music teachers are looking forward to the transition to the Common Core State Standards, as music education supports what is going on in the classroom.

“Because we’re specialists we can take the learning one notch deeper,” Peck said. “We’re very excited about Common Core because we think music fits right in and it’s important to keep our music programs to provide depth of knowledge.”

For evidence of that integration between music and subjects such as history and science, one needs to look no further than Peck’s storage closet. The closet is impressively filled from top to bottom with costumes and props for more than 30 different plays.

The students use musical theater to deepen their learning.

“My favorite is the musical plays because I think the kids learn so much. When they’re playing Einstein they have to learn about him to act like him and that’s exactly what the Common Core wants us to do, give them they basics and let them explore,” Peck said. “The plays are a great way to learn. I align them with science and social studies so what they’re learning in the classroom is the same thing they’re learning in music, just at a different level.”

After 22 years, Peck said she is still going strong and she is so grateful to work in a district that values music education and the role it can play for children.

“I’m really appreciative of the parents, for not just their financial support but the enthusiasm they have for the music program.” Peck said.