Even when she was confined to a wheelchair with her left leg broken in three places, music Professor Elaine Walter never considered cancelling Opera Workshop II, a course scheduled for the spring 2008 semester. “That would have been admitting defeat,” says Walter. “And I certainly wasn’t ready to step back and say that my teaching career was over. My brain wasn’t broken.”
Walter, the former dean of CUA’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and a professor there for more than 40 years, broke her leg on Nov. 8 after tripping on the stairs at the music school. Following almost a month in rehabilitation, she returned home.
Eight students signed up for her spring-semester course, the sequel to Opera Workshop I. Initially, Walter tried to teach the spring-semester course from home via the Internet. With the help of a special program that the university installed on her computer and on a computer at the music school, Walter and the students were able to see and talk with each other.
Walter started preparing the students to sing at an April 29 public performance, but by the end of March she decided she had to get to campus to teach the students face to face.
After mastering a set of crutches, she would drive from home to CUA and park in a special space behind the music school. Back on campus for the first time since she broke her leg, she realized that returning to the music school was as beneficial for her as it was for her students.
“It was great for my psyche to see my students and colleagues again and to return to teaching,” Walter says. “I couldn’t get up and demonstrate, but I could articulate what I wanted the students to do.”
For their public performance, the students staged scenes from Mark Adamo’s opera Little Women and three scenes in Russian from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
One of Walter’s Opera Workshop students, rising senior Anna Reed of Fredericksburg, Va., commented that Walter’s professionalism in the face of adversity was inspiring. “Nothing was going to stop her from getting the job done,” says Reed, a vocal performance major. “That says a lot to her students: As musicians we have to be responsible even when things get tough.”
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