Humans of Loyola: Jenna McSwain finds inspiration in the college setting


Jenna McSwain, popular and commercial music professor, poses for a portrait. She loves the inspiration in the college setting. Photo credit: Sofia Santoro

Sofia Santoro

Jenna McSwain, popular and commercial music professor, finds inspiration in the college setting.

When and why did you want to go into music education? And why in the college setting?

When I was in college, I did not think I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to play. Teaching wasn’t a strength at all, but when I was getting my masters, I was broke. So I started teaching kids piano lessons, and it became really fun to watch kids light up. To see that spark and to help them develop, and it’s such a slow process and in that process there’s so much human connection. I started doing it, and the more I got into it the more I enjoyed it, and thought I could be very present with other humans. I was actually here as an accompanist working with some of the vocal teachers who are still here. And Professor Duncan was watching how I spoke with other students and how I was giving them pretty positive feedback and she thought, “Hmm, you seem like an educator.” And I told her I had been teaching piano for about six or seven years and so they hired me as an adjunct and then full-time pretty quickly! But I love the college setting because there’s so much inspiration. It’s a time for so much challenge for college students, but in this challenge, I’m watching so many of these young adults create a lot of art. It’s just really inspiring to be around that.

When and why did you start teaching at Loyola?

After I got my masters in Jazz, I thought, “I have to work at a college!” So this job kinda found me. This is my third year. My first year as an adjunct was Fall 2017.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not teaching?

Spending time with my son! He’s three, so we play a lot of silly games, and I’m the mom that loves to run around with him. But I also love yoga and running, and I love being outside.

What are some of your favorite artists or genres to listen to?

Stevie Wonder is one of my heroes! I love that 70s kinda soulful, R&B pop sound. But I also have another side that loves Radiohead and Saint Vincent. I’m really inspired by people that are trying to say something, that are either trying to comment on society or bring people together. Honestly, I haven’t been listening to a lot of music for enjoyment lately because I have gigs where I have to learn this, this and this.

In a different life, if you weren’t a teacher, what would you want to do as a career why?

I don’t know, it was always music! It never felt like I had another choice. I was always good in academics and found science really interesting and loved to write. But if I started over tomorrow, I would find myself playing music still. I might also learn to breakdance.

What’s your astrological sign?

Aquarius! I think for me being an Aquarius means that I’m distracted, but I also get cerebral about things, but I don’t really know.