Music Alumni Spotlight: Heather Stenner ’96


photo of Stenner
Heather Stenner

Growing up in a musical family in Pella, Iowa, many of Heather Stenner’s fondest memories are centered around the power of music. With parents who both played the saxophone, a mother who was a drum major and a father involved in drama, Heather’s own journey in music and the arts has led her around the world and back to Colorado, where her love of music and work in music education has impacted hundreds of students.

Heather graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Music Education in 1996 with a focus in voice as a mezzo-soprano, and received her Orff Level I certification as well as her MusikGarten Level 1 training. Before coming to CSU, however, she spent one year traveling with Up With People (UWP), a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music by utilizing a unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development, and the performing arts. During her time with UWP, Heather sang and danced her way across the United States, Japan, and Europe; stayed with over 60 different host families; and performed over 115 shows – including a performance in Denver during the organization’s 25th anniversary tour in 1990.

“Up With People opened my eyes to the possibilities that lay ahead for me,” Heather said.

After her tenure with UWP ended, Heather found herself back in the Rocky Mountain region, this time as a music student at Colorado State University. While initially starting in Music Therapy, Heather’s passion for education and working with students soon prompted her switch to Music Education.

“I was really interested in how to help people through the power of music – especially working with kids,” Heather remembered. “And it’s carried through from what I was doing then to what I’m doing now.”

Heather certainly kept herself busy during her college years; between observations, practicums, student teaching, and other music education requirements, she worked as a nanny 20-25 hours each week. She loved the experience, though, and all her professors. Heather also composed music during her time at CSU – a tradition she’d enjoyed her whole life. After losing both of her musical parents to cancer, Heather knows what it means to live each day as if it were the last. Because of this, she is passionate about finding joy in each moment of the day.

photo of Stenner and Miller
Stenner, right, with Cheryl Miller Thurston

“Composing was like my own therapy,” she said. “With everything else going on in my life, it was something personal that seemed to just keep me going.”

After graduating from CSU, Heather taught at Kruse Elementary, where she taught K-6 music in Fort Collins for six years. In 2000, Heather’s composing career became more prominent in her career. She teamed up with lyricist Cheryl Miller Thurston to produce the musical A Hair from the Head of the Prince (2003), a recording entitled Polka Therapy (2008), and a songbook collection entitled Singuini: Noodling Around with Silly Songs (2006).

Her latest publication, just re-released this year, is Campfire Songs for Modern Kids – a collection of 26 songs, some original and others with new lyrics to familiar tunes. Differing from the Singuini book, Campfire Songs features several editions for singers, instructors and camp directors and includes a CD.

“You don’t need a campfire to enjoy singing these songs,” said Heather. “They’re catchy and have many of the tunes we already know, so they’re great for so many settings—school, after-school programs, talent shows, car trips, hiking excursions, Sunday school activities, and more—it’s about the memories created when we share these experiences.”

Heather’s passion for the value of sharing musical experiences is also evident in her company, Enthusic, which hosts events and publishes materials to foster the positive force of music in the lives of people of all ages.

“When I meet people for the first time and they find out I am a music teacher, their response is often the same: ‘oh, I’m not musical at all.’ When I hear that, it just breaks my heart,” said Heather. “No one should ever say that about themselves – everyone is musical, whether playing the radio or playing an instrument, and my passion is helping people see themselves as musical.”

Heather’s career in music has led her around the world and she has followed her passion for sharing music with so many people. Heather’s best advice:

“Funnel music into your soul and when the spirit moves you…share it!”

image of book coverWhen she’s not on stage or teaching, you’ll often find Heather on her yoga mat or shreddin’ the slopes on her snowboard.

All About Heather:

Ensembles at CSU: Women’s Chorus, University Singers

Favorite Professor(s): Dr. James McCray and Dr. Charles Lawson

Favorite Class: Music Ed Seminars

Major Musical Influences: Nat King Cole, Gershwin, Dakota Blonde (Mary Huckins-CSU Alum)

Favorite Spot on Campus: The Oval

Favorite Moment: Performing with elementary students at my senior recital as a Music Ed major