Bienen School of Music alumna Amanda Draper ’14 MMus, ’20 PhD was selected as the 2022-23 recipient of the Gretsch Fellowship in Children’s Music at the Fred Rogers Institute at Saint Vincent College.

The Gretsch Fellowship was created to support research and develop best practices in music experiences for children within the ethos and vision of the Fred Rogers Institute and its mission to “advance the legacy of Fred Rogers by investing in the strengths of families and caring adults to support the healthy development of children.”

Draper is an assistant professor of music education at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Her academic interests include investigating musical experiences for diverse learners with a focus on music and autism research, disability studies in music, and teacher preparation for special music education. She has presented regionally, nationally, and internationally to both academic and educator audiences. She has also published several journal articles focused on these topics. 

As a Gretsch Fellow, Draper will examine the Fred Rogers Institute archives for artifacts that illuminate Fred Rogers’ approach to inclusivity for people with disabilities. “I am particularly interested in Rogers’ use of music to reinforce the messages of competence, ability, and acceptance,” she said.

Draper plans to use her research to develop workshops for practitioners to support ability-oriented participatory music-making activities such as singing, playing, and improvisation that encourages students to explore and celebrate abilities and creativity for themselves and their peers. She will also publish her work as scholarly research in academic journals. 

“An important part of my work now is cultivating and advocating for practices that offer relevant, valuable musical opportunities that engage ability rather than highlight disability of student musicians,” said Draper. She added that through this fellowship, she hopes to “make a lasting contribution that advances the legacy of Fred Rogers and ensures that the lives of children of all abilities are enriched through musical participation.”  

Prior to her work in academia, Draper taught elementary and middle school general music for 10 years, most recently for Chicago Public Schools. This included working with students with autism in both inclusive and self-contained settings.

Draper was selected from applicants representing the United States and Europe, said Dana Winters, executive director of the Fred Rogers Institute. “We look forward to working with Dr. Draper as she carries forward the legacy of Fred Rogers through her proposed project to engage children, families, and their communities in celebrating the role of musical expression, especially for children with disabilities and special needs.” 

Bienen alumnus Cory Hills ’03 served as an inaugural Gretsch Fellow in 2021-2022.

Watch a Northwestern webinar featuring Draper's research, below.


  • music education