Why I love teaching Music... (aka How I ended up here...)
I've never publically written anything that discusses why I love to teach music. Sometimes it can be very motivational to remind yourself why you do the things you do.
I went to college as a clarinet major because it was the one thing that I did well that wasn't also something that I had to work overly hard at. I suppose, maybe that's not a good reason to do something, but at the time I had no reason to think that I wouldn't continue to to enjoy improving on the clarinet.
Turns out that college performance, while enjoyable showed me how difficult it is to make it in performance, and, quite honestly, I didn't have what it takes to make a living performing. I could play, I could keep up with others, but I didn't LIVE to practice. I enjoyed practicing, but it had to have it's limits, I couldn't practice 4 hours a day and stay sane...
My freshmen year, there was a sign in our practice facility looking for student musicians to come and fill in on a high school band concert. To this day, I still remember what the teacher looked like, but I could not tell you what school I was at. But as it turns out, that day was the first time I saw public education from outside the constraints of public education. In other words, I was an outside observer for the first time. I didn't sit there annoyed that the teacher wasn't using my time wisely, or that we were learning something that I had NO interest in whatsoever. I was being paid to watch a teacher try to make the most musical experience he could for his high school band. The band was very small-I don't know the reason why-it could have been he wasn't the greatest teacher and was driving students away, or it could be that the students were not making it out of their feeder programs to the high school and so there were not enough students to make a full ensemble. Whatever it was, I saw someone working to create the best performance he could, so his students would understand why music is special. All that to say-I'm so thankful to whoever the teacher was that I had that opportunity-it really changed the direction of my life at JUST the right time.
The next week, I went to my advisor and asked what I needed to do to switch to the music education program. After some discussion, it seemed as if it would be an easy thing to do, but I had to take one year of marching band-I had to join NUMB. I was not so sure about this. While I look back on my high school marching band experience fondly, when I went to college I had no interest in joining marching band ever again. I was burnt out-perhaps this is the reason I have never been interested in competing here at LZ-I saw that I did not want to continue marching band not only because I was burnt out, but also because I didn't see the point in being in a marching band if you weren't competing (how deluded I was...)
All that to say, I did end up joining Northwestern's Marching band the next fall-turns out it was a GREAT move for me-I found out that marching band does not have to be competitive. It could actually be very enjoyable and of a high quality as a band than entertains the crowd and supports the football team. In fact, the "entertainment" side of marching band is often lost by those of the "competitive" band world. The focus is so much on perfection, that the average joe has no appreciation for the 100s of hours that go into perfecting a show-100s of hours that I did not want to put into marching band...
My first job was teaching in Kankakee-assisting the HS band, assisting the MS band, running the HS jazz ensemble and teaching 5th and 6th grade band at King Grade School. I couldn't have had a better first job. The job itself was less than ideal and the program was only going to grow so much for many reasons, but what I enjoyed most about the program was the students-they were down to earth, hard-working and many of them were actually interested in learning music (a big bonus).
As I would find out later in life, the bands at the time weren't that great-but I thought they were. We worked hard-certainly there were many things in the way to real success. Very few students were taking private lesson, very few could afford to really upgrade instruments. But all things considered, it really was an eye-opening experience. Not only did I learn how to teach band, really teach all the instruments, I also learned about another culture. Kankakee was pretty racially mixed, the grade school I taught at was more than half African-American. It was a great place to teach, and I believe more than ever that it was there that I learned that kids were kids no matter where they came from or who they were. They all had the same desire to do something well.
I didn't try to leave, but Lake Zurich opened up and I had student taught in the school-and I loved the set up-jazz band during the day, 2 concert bands and music theory. It was a great school with lots of potential. As I said, it was the ONLY job I applied for that year-but it was a good fit, and I did get the job.
NEXT POST: Lake Zurich HS, the beginning...