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Sarah Stapleton
Sarah Stapleton

Fourth-year Music student Sarah Stapleton on why she’s Making Space for Music

During my first visit to the Laurier Waterloo campus for my audition, I was approached by five people, all of whom offered help (I guess I must have looked a bit lost!). That’s when I realized that this is where I wanted to be.

That feeling only increased as I entered the Music building. I found a home there even before I became a student. The welcoming culture in the Music Faculty, and across campus, inspired me to grow into the person that I wanted to become. For me, that’s really important in a university – maybe the most important thing. Through four years of my Music Education degree, I experienced unwavering support from friends, professors, colleagues – and of course, Dr. Glen Carruthers.

He changed the way I thought about leadership

For me, so much of the amazing culture I experienced at Laurier was created simply by the way Dr. Carruthers, our former Dean of Music, lived his life, the way he engaged with students. He made time every day to talk to us in the halls and in the elevator. Once he told me he was actually kind of scared of elevators, but that he rode them constantly because he knew it was one of the best places to talk to students!

That’s what was really remarkable about him – I felt like I had an extremely deep and personal relationship with him. I’d wager that virtually every student or person who knew him felt deeply connected to him, simply because of the way he led. He talked to everyone on a first name basis and you felt like he was someone you could confide in, and he inspired you.

Having someone like that as the dean really shaped the Faculty into a family for me. At Laurier Music, I knew that if anything difficult happened, I would always be supported. At one point in my degree, I was really struggling with my mental health. I experienced unwavering support from my professors and from Dr. Carruthers. He would consistently reach out to my professors and me to check in on how I was doing. I would go into the classroom and the professor would say, “Dr. Carruthers wanted me to let you know he was checking on you, how are you doing?” There were days when I felt incredibly alone and like nobody cared, but then I would remember that Dr. Carruthers cared, and it really helped.

He cared so deeply about every single student as a human being. There are so many of us students in the Faculty, and Dr. Carruthers remembered everything about all of us. Every time he talked with us, he really took the time to listen and respond, making every student feel very valued.

He changed the way I thought about leadership. I think growing up, we assume that leaders are going to be tough and cold sometimes – but it wasn’t like that with Dr. Carruthers. He showed me that vulnerability and empathy are the best traits you can have as a leader. He was right there beside us, pushing everyone to be their best selves all the time, almost like our cheerleader!

As a Music Education student, that has shaped my teaching philosophy. Like Dr. Carruthers, I want to show my students that someone is always in their corner. As a student, this way of teaching changed me, it meant I could take risks because if something happened, people were there to help get me back on my feet.

Dr. Carruthers saw all of us students as capable, valuable, connected human beings, and that’s what we became.

I will always give to love

I wanted to give to the Making Space for Music campaign because all Dr. Carruthers did was give: he gave his love, time and energy. Giving toward a project he loved was the least I could do to honour him.

It’s also about Laurier. I love Laurier with every fibre of my being. The people I’ve known here, specifically in the Faculty of Music, have allowed me to grow into exactly the kind of person I wanted to become: honest, vulnerable, daring, willing to try new things. Every moment has truly shaped who I've become as a person. I hope to give back to Laurier for rest of my life.

I want more students to have an experience like I had. I aspire to be a professor one day and potentially teach at Laurier. I would love to come back in ten to 15 years and see how the program has grown and help more students discover who they are, and fall in love with themselves.

That is what this building and this Faculty does and what Dr. Carruthers did: help people love. Love themselves, each other and music. I’m supporting Making Space for Music in part because there is so much of Dr. Carruthers in it, and in part because this campaign is about love - love of music, love of students, love of community - and I will always give to love.


Photo credit: Alan Dean Photography.

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