“When someone asks me why I teach here, my first response is, ‘I believe God called me to North Park,’ and, secondly, ‘I love it here!’” says Dr. Helen Hawkins, associate professor of music and coordinator for the bachelor of music: music in worship degree program.
Dr. Hawkins teaches theory and analysis, aural skills, music history, and church music, along with co-directing the Gospel Choir. She also helps coach the student-led worship teams that participate in campus worship each week. Through all of this, Dr. Hawkins is grateful for the time that she gets to spend with students, walking alongside them as they develop into professional musicians of many kinds. “I have the privilege of working with young musicians a lot,” says Dr. Hawkins, “from the first auditions all the way to senior year internships, recitals, graduation and first jobs. It’s an amazing formational journey and I love the part I get to play in it for my students.”
Dr. Hawkins brings her own concentrated studies in music cognition, post-tonal music, and theory pedagogy to her classrooms. Dr. Hawkins helps students develop their own musical abilities as well as find their place in the community of the School of Music. “Our school sets the bar high for our students,” she says. “But we also work hard to create a community that encourages and supports students along the way and understands that it is a journey.”
“You need some raw talent and a lot more stubborn determination. But you also need friends and mentors to inspire you by their example,” says Dr. Hawkins. “More important, to be there when you’re questioning if this is really the right path or if you’ve got what it takes.” She believes that this is the sort of community the School of Music offers to students at all levels.
Dr. Hawkins intentionally keeps a faith perspective in all her classes and draws on 20 years of experience as a church musician and conference worship leader in Chicago-area churches to inform her mentoring of worship leaders in training. She currently serves as a music minister at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill., an historic African-American congregation. “A major emphasis for me,” says Dr. Hawkins, “is to help students see beyond the boundaries of their own church tradition and to experience aspects of faith practice such as worship from other Christian communities and traditions.”