was answered early on with the words, “music teacher.”
I was thrilled on my tenth birthday to get a 4’ X 4’ chalkboard with music staff lines already painted on. This went in my room where I spent hours pretending to teach music reading skills. Although my little brother, the only student in my class, did not grow up to be a music teacher, I can assure you he should be able to read music, although he was a bit of a discipline problem in those early private sessions. My parents started me on piano when I was nine, and a new piano was moved into my bedroom. Piano lessons, voice lessons, and private music theory lessons were the norm in my life for many years. The biggest influence in my life was my grandfather who told me, “You are going to college to become a music teacher someday.” Thanks to his urging, I would be the first in many generations in my family to earn a college degree.
My hero was my elementary music teacher, Mrs. Tattum. She came to our classroom every other day for the best 30 minutes of each day. Let me give you an example. It was a beautiful spring day during my fifth grade year, and everyone was dreaming of going outside for recess while I was anticipating music class. The class was especially unruly that day, so much so that Mrs. Tattum had to issue the ultimatum, “If you don’t stop talking, you will stay in during recess to draw treble clefs.” Then she said, “Does anyone want to stay and draw treble clefs?” My hand immediately shot up. Mrs. Tattum was livid. Recess came. She brought me the first theory worksheet, and I finished it in record time. I asked for another, but Mrs. Tattum could see I was enjoying myself too much so she quickly dismissed me. My elementary music teacher was a huge influence in my life as she exposed me to so many genres of music, so many great composers, and provided opportunities for me to go and hear a live professional symphony orchestra, a concert band, and a choir. Through music and her special interest in me, she changed my life forever.
At the end of my seventh grade year, my family moved to a farm in an area that had a high school with no music program. However, my dream of going to college to study music remained, and my parents were committed to drive me to piano and voice lessons throughout high school, but there was always something missing from my life. I
Can you imagine life without music? Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” I believe that music is the language of the human spirit, common to all, that cultivates intellect, expresses the inexpressible, tells the story of humanity, feeds our spirits, and reminds us that there is something larger than our individual self. Music changes lives! I say often, “I don’t just teach music, I teach life.”
I am proud to be part of a profession whose presence and mission is so vital to all cultures. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than seeing my students grow into fine young men and women empowered and shaped through music to be better parents, professionals, community members, employees, and leaders. One of the most important jobs I have as a music educator is to select quality choral literature that influences, educates, and shapes lives in powerful ways. The ultimate high for me is when my students choose music education as a career because I lived the impact they are about to experience.
I am thankful my family shared the joy of music-making with me. I am thankful I had a dedicated elementary music teacher, who inspired me with music. Yes, I am thankful for my unique high school experience, where music was absent because now I understand the value of music and the many music educators who work tirelessly to ensure that all students experience and are shaped by this great art form.