Pat Surface teachers her students in innovative ways, incorporating YouTube and art into her classroom.
The Jacob L. and Sophia Meyer Farb School Bell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Music Education is presented annually to an individual who has had a lasting impact through music in their community and beyond.
This year Pearl Hall Elementary teacher Pat Surface has been chosen as the recipient of the prestigious award to be presented at the Spec's Charitable Foundation Salute to Educators Concert on Wednesday.
Nominations for the award were accepted from fine arts administrators throughout Greater Houston. Linda Fletcher, director of fine arts for the Pasadena ISD, submit one on behalf of Surface.
“Pat is an amazing teacher and has touched so many lives by sharing her love of music,” Fletcher said. “She is innovative and dynamic in the classroom, instilling in her students a joy for music and for learning.”
Throughout her career of 43 years, Surface has taught general music, choir, band, private lessons, elementary classroom and educators’ professional development in Texas and New Mexico. She has also mentored many exceptional student-teachers.
“I received a call from Allison Conlan, the associate director of education for the symphony, and she was asking me all of these questions,” Surface said. “When she told me I won the award, I was floored. I didn’t even know I was nominated. Out of all the music educators in the Houston area, they chose me and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Under her leadership, Surface's students have won international, state and local awards. They have participated in groups such as All-State, Houston Children’s Chorus, Houston Boy’s Chorus, The Houston Grand Opera, performed on stage with Astronaut Chris Hadfield and The Houston Symphony, participated in the “Hear the Future” Music Festival and performed at Fine Arts Day at the Texas State Capitol.
One of her passions is integrating cross-curricular education through STEAM (science technology engineering arts and math).
“I saw students struggling with listening skills, language arts and in other areas and I knew I could fill those holes with music,” Surface said. “We get the brain ready to learn, listen and function. Not just for music, but for all areas of their learning. In my experience, you can teach a child anything through the arts.”
It was this passion that lead to mutually beneficial relationships with the Houston Symphony, NASA and other organizations. Surface --along with her daughter and Pearl Hall teaching partner, Jami Lupold, -- developed the “Building Cultural Bridges” program.
History was made when her students performed live on NASA TV accompanied by International Space Station Commander, Chris Hadfield, along with astronauts Cady Coleman and Dan Burbank in the TV studio. Pearl Hall students frequently send gifts of music to those in space and shipped a Japanese folk instrument on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to Commander Koichi Wakata.
“These 43 years have gone by very quickly,” Surface said. “Teaching music has definitely evolved. I’m sure if someone walked in to see my classroom, they would label me unconventional, but it works. My students go on to be very successful and that is its own reward.”