We teach music because it is, unto itself, a standalone academic subject. Music touches a part of our psyche that helps us regulate our lives. Music helps us understand and express our moods and attitudes. Music helps us reorganize our thoughts and feelings while keeping us on track. Music allows us to respond appropriately in social structure that is often confusing and complex. Participation in music avails the musician to the infinite journey of creative expression connecting to a language understood, communicated, and appreciated by all of mankind around the globe. MUSIC FOR THE SAKE OF MUSIC.
What role does the director/conductor/teacher/mentor play in bringing this philosophical blueprint to fruition? Why do some programs thrive while others struggle to survive? Isn’t it a combination of the MESSAGE and the MESSENGER? We all know the immeasurable value of THE MESSAGE; let us begin to investigate the key elements of the successful MESSENGER. What have these MASTER TEACHERS (messengers) discovered, and what can we learn from their studying (and replicating) their templates-of-success?
After four decades of working with some of the finest music programs in the world, it has become obvious there are marked likenesses that serve as part of the predictable framework of the successful band/choir/orchestra program, and much of it is directly linked to the director and his/her approach to the art of teaching music. Above all, these people are dedicated students of musical growth; never arriving, always seeking, searching, and learning.
The following pages of this text reveal FIVE CORNERSTONE (off-the-podium) teaching areas that are found in MANY/MOST of the outstanding music educators. While they all have a unique style, the following “cornerstones” are predictably evident in all.
* CORNERSTONE #1: CONTINUING EDUCATION
“I began my education at a very early age - in fact, right after I left college.” - Winston Churchill, 1874 - 1965
With modern technology and the ongoing exchange of breakthrough data, the educational process (school) is not something we do, but it is something we CONTINUE TO DO throughout our lives; it is never-ending and it is gaining momentum at warp speed.
Veteran educators are clearly aware: “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.” Therefore it is necessary to constantly seek out the latest trends, techniques, discoveries, improvements, and educational benefits. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting, but it is a condition that is HERE TO STAY.
It is so easy and tempting to ignore the latest contributions, from the newest literature to technological breakthroughs. It’s far easier to “do it the way we’ve always done it,” (and not complicate the agenda with all this “new stuff” that really has not stood the test-of-time, often a convenient rationalization) than it is to venture into the realm of the unknown. It is also much safer, but how can our students grow unless we grow? Shouldn’t we be the role models of-and-for ongoing self-improvement?
Times are changing! Unlike days gone by, the teacher is no longer in a position of being THE ALL-KNOWING EXPERT. Our students (in many instances) are more technological savvy than we are.
The Winston Churchill quote at the beginning of this article is a wonderful bit of wisdom; we must heed the message within, “The completion of the college requisites and the celebration of our graduation merely provided the gateway to THE COMMENCEMENT [the commencing/the beginning/the start] of our REAL education.” Today’s master teachers are also today’s master students as they embrace the responsibilities of their awareness.