Katalin La Favre Reflects on Colburn’s Alumni Support and Her Project Storytelling Through Music

Alumna Katalin La Favre announces her New Venture Competition project launch, “Storytelling Through Music,” for early 2023.

Katalin La Favre describes herself as “a classically trained percussionist on a non-traditional path.” Having studied with Jack Van Geem at Colburn’s Conservatory, she graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s in percussion. Thereafter, she received a Fulbright Grant to study with percussionist Jean Geoffroy in Lyon, France at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon (CNSMDL) and continued to live in France for almost a decade, only recently returning to the U.S. a year ago. 

Katalin speaks of the support she received from Colburn in making her studies abroad happen. Katalin worked with Library Director Deborah Smith to write her grant proposal for the Fulbright Scholarship.  Aiding in her efforts, Colburn faculty Jack Van Geem and Doug Dutton also provided integral recommendations to secure her selection. Katalin received her master’s and artist diploma at the CNSMDL, followed by acquiring a degree in instrumental pedagogy at CEFEDEM Auvergne Rhône-Alpes also in Lyon. 

Colburn’s care didn’t end once Katalin arrived in France. Noting that she is “very impressed by Colburn’s alumni support,” she shares that Colburn sponsored her to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in 2013, with incredible support from Daniel Bee, Laura Liepins, Susannah Ramshaw, Montana Graboyes, and Carol Colburn Grigor. “That was an amazing experience. And Colburn arranged everything: booked the venue, did the marketing, arranged somewhere for me to stay, rented my instruments, and also supported me bringing somebody to help me with the lighting and moving equipment. And it was incredible …. That Colburn did that for me was marvelous.” Katalin further notes that the program was based on her Colburn senior recital and that she had an additional three performances in Scotland. 

Another alumni offering that Katalin speaks highly of is the New Venture Competition hosted by the Center of Innovation and Community Impact. The New Venture Competition is a philanthropically funded opportunity for alumni to test the entrepreneurial waters and gain valuable knowledge and experience for real-world ideas and project development and pitching. “You need to be your own advocate if you want to make certain things happen. So New Venture was a great way to, in a safe environment, try out pitching and get feedback,” says Katalin. She further shares that the program is “really amazing and provides support both in terms of financial and guidance. And that even 10 years after graduating, there is always someone there providing support.” This latter statement is a shout-out to Dean Zeisler for his availability to provide guidance with her materials and address questions. Acquiring this knowledge and developing these entrepreneurial skills is “as important as playing your instrument,” states Katalin. “Students should really take advantage of these opportunities. It’s crucial.” 

One of these opportunities, the Center of Innovation and Community Impact’s Teaching Fellows program, which is generously supported by the Max H. Gluck Foundation, is identified as an experience that “planted the seed” for her pedagogical studies and later motivated her music curriculum project for the New Venture Competition. The project is called Storytelling Through Music and was created for public school kindergartens and first grades. Her inspiration for the project is also connected to a childhood experience where she was supposed to read her favorite story but instead, she created a new story based on the illustrations in the book. She recalls being “really excited to share my story with the class … because I wasn’t always given an opportunity to do what I was really good at, which was to create things. So I really wanted to create something for the child version of me. I would’ve loved something like this when I was a kid.” 

Storytelling Through Music is a curriculum within common core guidelines that intentionally incorporates creativity components. “I want students to be able to create; listen to music and use their imaginations in a space where there are no right or wrong answers. I also want to get more music into the classroom.” The project includes musical compositions by Katalin and illustrations by Jessica Sunderhaft and is set up in a series of four chapters. The introduction chapter includes a story developed with a musical accompaniment that the students listen to and then they create a sequel based on a musical track. The lesson plan includes discussion points for the teacher to engage the students with the material, such as conducting a simple analysis of the music. For example, “Is it slow or fast? What kind of instruments do you hear? And then how to apply those answers to create a story.” Other chapters include building upon story parts such as characters and settings with a musical connection. Common core elements are interwoven through discussion verifying students’ listening comprehension, practicing narration of sequential events, and being able to communicate their ideas clearly. The final chapter culminates in the full story creation based on musical tracks heard by the students to develop a beginning, middle, and end narrative. The students also provide illustrations and present their stories to their classmates. 

Katalin is targeting an early 2023 release of the Storytelling Through Music curriculum that will be available on www.teacherspayteachers.com. 

In a final reflection, Katalin shares that “Being at Colburn provided a real openness and freedom for me to do a lot of things. Not just because of the financial support, which of course is huge, but also because of the personal support of the teachers and the staff.” Evidence of this freedom to explore was Jack Van Geem’s encouragement in the percussion studio to create the Smoke and Mirrors Percussion Ensemble. Additionally, Katalin and another percussion student, Joe Beribak, helped establish the Colburn Contemporary Players with the support of Doug Dutton and Richard Beene. “A school that allows students to propose ideas like this and help make them a reality is really incredible. And that intimacy of Colburn where students can really have a big voice and get attention is huge. I miss having that artist community sometimes as a professional; it was so great as a student to have that support.” 

In addition to co-authoring a book with a group of former students and colleagues on former Colburn Conservatory faculty Jack Van Geem, Katalin has several other projects in the works. Learn more about Katalin and her various events and projects here. 

If you are interested in providing funding for the New Venture Competition or getting involved as a mentor for future student projects, please send an email to Dean Nathaniel Zeisler at nzeisler@colburnschool.edu.