Taking That Next Step with Lauren Teel

Taking That Next Step with Lauren Teel

By Kellie Finch

“Beyond even our art form, people highlighting the accomplishments of other women is inspiring…I would hope that throughout my lifetime I was able to do something that was worthy to be a motivating thing to other players.”

For many women in the world of music, discovering the path to success comes from learning from those who paved the way.

Lauren Teel, a renowned WGI percussion adjudicator and teacher, is no different. She credits much of her success as a woman in music to the women who came before her, with one in particular: Sandi Rennick.

Rennick, an accomplished percussion performer and teacher, acted as Teel’s “unofficial mentor” as the young percussionist grew up. Seeing how Rennick carried herself and approached her career inspired Teel’s own journey of growth and education.

“From her, I’ve kind of learned that if I feel nervous about it, it’s probably something I should lean into moving forward,” Teel said.

Rennick’s encouragement throughout the start of Teel’s career was a key asset, pushing her to do more than she thought possible.

The Power of a Great Educator

Other educators in Teel’s upbringing inspired her to pursue teaching music in general. Her original degree was in music performance, but through the impact of some incredible teachers, Teel was inspired to change course and pursue music education instead.

“As I went down the pathway and experienced teaching more and more, I just found it really fulfilling to be involved in something that’s not just about me, but about a group, and we’re all working toward the same thing,” Teel said. “I think that’s really special and unique.”

While searching for her voice as a teacher, Teel looked back to the teachers she had, striving to impact her students in the same way Teel’s teachers impacted her.

“I’ve had a few instructors across my time that have really gone out of their way to give back to the next generation. That’s something I really value from my teachers that I’m trying to now embody and do for myself,” Teel said. “So, I’m always finding ways to ensure the next generation is getting the same opportunities that I felt like I was afforded and really being there long after they’re not just members of my groups anymore.”

As a young woman in the music industry, Teel often worked alongside students who were not much younger than herself. This was especially true when Teel was 21 and she began working for a drum corps right after her age-out. Balancing age and authority, along with authenticity, was something Teel had to learn.

“I felt like I really needed to be who I thought teachers were,” Teel said. “I tried to put on a face, and I found that it didn’t work. Kids, when you’re not being genuine with them, don’t respond as well.”

Girl's March

For young women in music, having mentors and environments to enjoy music is essential, and this was a way that Teel wanted to give back to the next generation of musicians.

This is how she became involved in Girls March, a summer percussion camp that strives to empower women in music through representation. The five-day camp, comprised of an all-woman and non-binary staff, was founded by Teel’s college roommate, Raychel Taylor.

Its goal? To showcase how powerful women’s voices are.

“It’s been really inspiring to be involved in that and just see how she’s opening conversations up to young girls in middle and high school,” Teel said. “It’s important that we all support each other, and we help each other have that community.”

Girls March focuses on ages 12-18 and gives young women a space to gain role models and friends in an inspiring female community.

“Girls March is dedicated to bringing the disparity of men’s and women’s experiences in the pageantry arts to the forefront of discussion by highlighting women’s stories,” Girls March states. “We are amplifying their voices to the larger community by giving them the stage.”

Take That Step

For many young women in music, one of the worst causes of downfall is self-doubt. Teel’s advice for combating this is to push through it, no matter how difficult.

“When you feel maybe not quite ready for something, or something makes you feel uncomfortable, in terms of, ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough,’ or ‘I don’t know if I’m experienced enough,’ you need to go towards that,” Teel said.  “The worst thing that’ll happen is you might not achieve it.”

At the very least, it facilitates a learning space for girls to grow. It only takes one person, one audition, one ‘yes,’ to change a life.

“All the best things that I’ve experienced came from those instances where I didn’t feel quite ready to take that next step, but I took it anyways,” Teel said.

Plus, as Teel said, even if you think you’re unprepared, you may be more than ready.

About the Author:

Kellie Finch is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing her BA in Media and Journalism through the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. At UNC, she is a member of the Marching Tar Heels in the tenor saxophone section. She participated in WGI winds during all four years of high school playing the alto saxophone, where she discovered her love for music and the activity through her experiences and the people she met.