Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Zeilinger (BA ‘14, MM’19), Music Education & Instrumental Conducting

Why did you choose to study your particular major?

I have wanted to be a band director since the 8th grade. Those music experiences shaped who I am, and my directors were constant inspirations in my life. When I received the chance to go back to school and finish my degree, I did so without question. I wanted to teach and I love music.

Describe your career and relate how APU helped you succeed.

I am the Director of Instrumental Music, Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, String Ensemble, Jazz Band, and Handbell Choir at Orange Lutheran High School. Additionally, I teach the Music Theory II course, and I am the head of an academy that provides a deeper musical experience for students. APU gave me the skills I needed in order to succeed in such a wide variety of mediums. My time with the APU music faculty was invaluable, and I made many calls to my mentors during my first year. They helped me tremendously.

Describe a time where you felt you had found your calling in your field of study.

There were many times through the years. After I graduated high school in 2000, I kept on teaching music and marching band part time. While I did not think I was ready to be a full time teacher, the time I spent teaching helped me get through every work day. One memory in particular would be when I was in my first year as an assistant at a high school. I was teaching Jazz II and the students did not understand how to correctly play a New Orleans street beat. I decided to have them walk around the room and vocalize it. It was silly and strange, but by the end of it they all understood how to play and move to a street beat.

What was the most meaningful experience you had at APU?

My mission trip to Armenia with the Handbell choir. We played at over 20 churches in big and remote locations. We visited truly ancient churches and my relationships with my choir mates were forged forever there.

If you could give a word of advice to future and current students, what would it be?

Keep going!!!! Every day brings its own challenges. The sun sets at the end, yet it rises again for us to continue. Know that God is with you all the way and keep going. Success comes with perseverance and faith.

Aaron Zeilinger has been recognized for the inaugural 2021 Yamaha “40 under 40” music educator award in the United States!

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