Catonsville resident Allison Wyper, a graduate student in music education at McDaniel College, is also involved with the college's concert choir as a singer and community music group as a clarinetist. (Photo by Phil Grout / May 26, 2012)

Allison Wyper said she has played music since birth.

That's an exaggeration, but not by much.

As an infant, Wyper would often lay her hands atop those of her grandfather, Earl Seth, as he played piano.

More than 20 years later, Wyper's passion for music has filled her life.

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In addition to the workload as a graduate student at McDaniel College in Westminster pursuing a master's degree in music education, she has a part-time job and roles in several of the school's music groups, where she sings and plays clarinet and flute.

"I can't even remember when I actually started playing, because it was so much part of my life," the first-year graduate student said.

Wyper can't remember the start and likely can't see the finish because music is something she hopes to turn into a career.

She said she intends to use her master's degree to combine her life-long love of music with a passion she only recently discovered: While working at Steppin Out Shoes at The Mall in Columbia, Wyper has helped children get the right footwear, and said those brief interactions were enough to direct her to a career working with children.

"It made me realize how much I love kids and want to be a teacher," said Wyper, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in music from McDaniel in 2009.

"They're just waking up to the world, really," she said of why she enjoys working with children. "I think being a teacher is important because you can shape them and help them."

Her graduate program has given her a taste of what's to come with practicums, a type of internship for teachers.

Wyper has spent parts of her first and second semesters teaching instrumental to the band and orchestras at Freedom Elementary School and Sykesville Middle School.

She said she enjoyed both experiences and hopes to have a similar position after graduating in 2014.

"You get to see how fun they are," Wyper said. "The kids are pretty good. When you ask them a question, they respond pretty eagerly. They're pretty happy and cheerful."

Staying connected

David Duree, who has taught saxophone and clarinet at McDaniel for 14 years, recalled that Wyper had expressed interest in a degree in information technology when she was a freshman.

But after playing in the Clarinet Ensemble during her freshman year, she changed her major to music.

That left her with a lot of ground to make up as many of her classmates had trained for years prior to entering college, Duree said.

Duree said he marveled at Wyper's technical ability on the clarinet, especially, since "she had no direction or private instruction until she got to college," Duree said.

"To graduate, she had to meet level six performance," Duree said. "That's the highest level, and she did that in three years."