Professor Stories: Dawn Avery

Dawn Avery is an award-winning professor—and a Grammy-nominated musician. An accomplished cellist, she's worked with Madonna, the Soldier Quartet, Sussan Deyhim and many other world-famous musicians and composers. Two of her albums were chosen as Best Independent Albums of the Year by WNYC public radio.

Despite this world renown, 2011 Maryland state winner Dawn Avery remains very connected to her roots. "As a child, my teachers and parents praised the fact that we lived in a melting pot and developed in me an appreciation for learning and participating in the different cultures around me," Dawn wrote in her personal statement. "As a professor in Montgomery County (Maryland) where our students represent more than 171 countries, I am fortunate to continue with that enthusiasm for sharing and learning about culture."

"Most of our students face many challenges, such as soldiers just returning from combat, students leaving behind family to find safety from war-ridden countries [and] single parents who also work two jobs. I am privileged to dedicate myself to this diverse population, and I often seek out the student who needs that extra assistance," she wrote.

"She made our classroom comfortable and safe, deeming no question unworthy of her time," wrote one former student. "We learned the deeply rooted importance and beauty of music, arts and culture throughout the world, a lesson that has become the driving force for my own academic concentration."

Dawn extends the supportive environment outside of the classroom and into the broader community through several campus-based projects. She's involved in the United Nations' "Water Music for Life Project" and taught classes on world music and the African musical experience. She's also producer of the Montgomery College World Arts Festival, now in its 10th year, an event that features residencies, workshops, assembly programs, fundraisers and collaborations on music, arts, dance and culture from around the world.

"Some may become music majors, some study music to relieve homesickness, some attend to fulfill a general education requirement or practice writing and reading skills, and others join to recover a lost sense of community. All of them come with an interest in the world and education and that is what I try to foster. "

"Professor Avery is among the most talented and dedicated teachers in [Montgomery College's] long history," wrote one coworker. "Avery deftly guides and motivates her students to learn and grow academically and artistically."

"It is with great intelligence that we may express what is in our hearts, and with a nourished being that students can develop great intelligence," wrote Dawn in her personal statement.

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More on Dawn

Dawn's website