For Megan Walsh, being named the Director of the Frost Preparatory Program was something she had prepared for since her time as an undergraduate in the Department of Music. After she received a B.A. in Piano Performance in 2000 and an M.A. in Piano Performance and Literature in 2003 at the University of Notre Dame, she began her doctoral studies at the University of Miami and founded the Frost Preparatory Program. Now she is the Director of that Program. The Frost Preparatory Program is a pre-college music program that is intended to develop a child’s interests and abilities in music. It offers courses for children ages 0-18 ranging from music appreciation to preparation for music conservatories. Starting with 35 students in 2003, the Program has grown to approximately 500 students today. It employs 54 teachers, including University of Miami graduate and undergraduate students, recent graduates, Frost School of Music Faculty, and other renowned music teachers in the South Florida area.
Walsh said her time in the Department of Music prepared her for the role as Director. "Notre Dame provided many opportunities for me to perform while I was a student, beginning as a freshman giving a full-length recital, which is rare for a freshman at other universities. This played an important part in my musical development and led to performances in various countries such as Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Italy upon graduation. I have pulled on these performance experiences to provide a robust performance component to the Frost Prep Program. Our students participate in many competitions, concerts, and events each year. All of my performances have also helped me to gain the necessary confidence that I need as the director, to give frequent speeches in public, attend executive meetings at the university, and interact with high-profile clients."
Perhaps the most impactful part of her Notre Dame career was teaching at the Robinson Center. "I was fortunate to start a piano program at the Robinson Learning Center concurrent with earning my Master’s degree. There I gained valuable real-world teaching experience that helped me develop a pre-college comprehensive music program at the University of Miami. My time at the Robinson Center helped me apply my knowledge in music pedagogy and learn skills such as client relationships, business development, recital and event planning, community engagement, and much more, " she said.
The Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) was started in 2001 as an off-campus educational initiative of the University of Notre Dame, in partnership with Northeast Neighborhood residents of South Bend.
Walsh has many fond memories of her time as a piano student at Notre Dame, but she recalled the one she is most fond of. “During my junior year, I visited Holy Cross House once a week to perform for the retired priests. I was looking for an opportunity to practice in front of an audience as I was preparing for my junior recital. I met Fr. Lauck on one of my first visits. He would come sit next to me and listen to me play each week, and we enjoyed talking about music and art. Fr. Lauck was suffering from dementia. When I would arrive and greet him at his lunch table, he would not know who I was. I would say ‘I’m here to play the piano today for you’ and he would tell me ‘not today come back another day I am too tired.’ Then I would go to the piano and begin playing. Almost immediately I would hear the sound of his walker with the tennis balls on the bottom working their way over to the piano. He would sit down and say, ‘Megan, it is so good to see you, thank you for being here today.’ He would remember our conversation from the week before and the pieces I played. The music brought him back for that moment in time.”
"Our weekly visits went on for the whole year, and fortunately he was in good enough health to be brought to campus to attend my junior recital. His presence at the recital calmed me and I am grateful he was there, and our time together will always be a cherished memory that I will carry with me throughout my life. His health declined shortly after my recital and he lost his vision. He no longer was able to come downstairs at the Holy Cross House to hear me play, so I made recordings of all the pieces I would play for him and brought over a tape player and placed it in his room. Music calmed him and knowing I could help him when he needed it the most made me realize how powerful music can be, and this helped to solidify my belief in my career choice. When he passed, I kept a picture of the stained-glass window he made at the Moreau Seminary on the piano during my concerts for good luck and confidence, and most importantly to feel as though he was there sitting next to me listening as I played."
Over the years, many ND piano majors have gained teaching experience through the Robinson program, which has in turn enhanced their applications for MM/DMA programs and teaching assistantships, as they embark on their own teaching and performing careers. During the pandemic, this program was adapted to serve the local community via Zoom.