Amy Noelle Shawler Dodds

1976 -

Amy Dodds, a violinist who also plays piano and oboe, is a violin and viola teacher at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In addition to serving as concertmaster in small college baroque ensembles, she also conducts other chamber groups at WC.

Amy was born in Loma Linda, California, one of three children and the only daughter of William and Sue Lambeth Shawler. The Shawlers moved to Tillamook, Oregon, when she was an infant and resided there until she was in the sixth grade, when they moved to Portland.

Although her mother was a nurse, she was also an organist and singer and directed the choir in the Seventh-day Adventist elementary school at Tillamook. Her father, though not an active musician, was very supportive of and involved with the children's musical studies, encouraging them to share what they were learning with him and offering practice incentives.

Amy became fascinated with the violin while very young when she heard it played in church. She later related that experience, her attempt to replicate it, and her early study on violin and piano:

When I was four, I heard Raylene Zaugg play the violin in church somewhere. I spent nearly a year after that playing on a pretend "violin" made of a rectangular plastic electronic Fisher Price toy, with a plastic back scratcher for a bow. There was no violin teacher in Tillamook at that time, so my mother drove me to Portland for lessons. Eventually, she recruited enough new students in Tillamook for the teacher to drive to us, which continued for many years.

I started piano lessons in Tillamook at age six. I eventually commuted to Portland again for violin lessons, and continued both violin and piano lessons after we moved there until I went to college. I studied piano and theory with Marianne Gienger of Tillamook, then Dorothy Fahlman of Portland.

Amy's first violin lessons were in the Suzuki Method with Anke Leibrecht and continued until she moved to Portland, where she took lessons with Kathryn Gray. At age thirteen, she became a member of the Portland Youth Orchestra, a nationally noted group, and played in it until she graduated from Portland Adventist Academy in 1994 and left the area to attend Walla Walla College, now University.

She enrolled at WWC as a double major in music and Spanish, with pre-medicine requirements as also part of her program. She studied piano with Leonard Richter and violin with Susan Pickett at nearby Whitman College, and played the oboe, an instrument she had learned while in the academy, in band and a woodwind quintet.

She met Gregory Dodds, a history, religion, and business major, while at WWC. They graduated in 1997, she with a major in Spanish and a minor in music. That fall they enrolled for graduate study at Claremont Graduate University in southern California, and then married in late December. She auditioned on both violin and piano and then completed an M.A. in violin with piano as a supporting performance area, studying violin with Rachel Vetter Huang and piano with Hao Huang .

She enjoyed her graduate work in music at CGU and continued lessons with Rachel Vetter Huang, completing a DMA in violin in 2002. While at Claremont, she soloed with the Claremont Concert Orchestra and presented programs in the area, in addition to her graduate recitals, which included performances on baroque period instruments. She was given exclusive use of a 1672 Andrea Guarneri violin from a local museum during her graduate study.

Dodds was recipient of two major fellowships while a doctoral student, winner of the Polk Competition at Claremont, and the national Mary Faustina Memorial Competition. She also taught violin at Scripps College and the University of La Verne.

The Doddses returned to the Walla Walla area when Gregory was offered a position in history at WWC in 2001. During that first year Amy taught classroom music and all of the ensembles at the Milton-Stateline SDA School. Following completion of her doctorate, she was hired to teach violin and viola and chamber music at Whitman College, where she is an adjunct assistant professor of music. She particularly enjoys introducing baroque ornamentation to her students and helping them gain confidence in incorporating it into their playing.

She occasionally plays in the Walla Walla Symphony but finds taking her two daughters to concerts by the orchestra and many other musical events to be particularly enjoyable.

Dodds has an interest in the work of women composers and did some research on those of Great Britain while in that country in 2002. A recent project was the organizing and presenting of a program in January 2010 of music by women composers and poetry about the treatment of women. The presentation, which was given by women from Whitman College, Walla Walla University, and Walla Walla Community College to help raise money for a local women's shelter, was part of a larger event endeavoring to raise awareness about human trafficking.


Sources: IAMA biographical form completed by Amy Dodds, 5 November 2010; Email exchanges, December 2010; Whitman College website faculty biography; personal knowledge..