I was fortunate to have incredible music teachers along every step of my education. Each of them touched my life in a different way and left me with a desire to give back by becoming a public school music educator. In elementary school, there was the general music teacher who sparked my love of singing, and the instrumental teacher who put a tiny violin in my hands and encouraged me every squeaky step of the way. An amazing middle school orchestra director showed me the joy of playing in an ensemble, and I was lucky to have two violin teachers who helped me find my identity as a musician and push me to a higher level on my instrument. My high school had a team of superhero music teachers who not only encouraged me to be the best musician I could be, but also helped me find my place in what seemed to be a very confusing and overwhelming world. Those teachers offered me a safe haven at school and in life, and I still feel a sense of duty to pass that on to children.
Music brings us together in community and offers comfort in times of solitude. It is a universal human activity that connects people across culture, place, and time. I feel that all children deserve a quality music education so that they can fully develop their innate capacity for music. Any less is to deprive them of a fundamental method of expression and communication. My teachers went above and beyond to provide that to me, so I want to pay it forward!
I currently teach 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade strings (violin, viola, cello, and bass) in the Fox Chapel Area School District, a position I started this year. Previously, I taught elementary and middle school strings in Wheeling, West Virginia for two years. I have also coached community and youth orchestras and taught private violin and viola lessons to students ages 6 to 87!
I truly cannot imagine doing any other job. In times when I have worried about job security in the arts, I have tried to consider other career options to no avail! It is such a privilege to watch children develop their expressive skills and connect with one another and the world through music each day. I certainly don’t expect every student to become a professional musician, any more than an English teacher expects every student to become a professional author. The goal that energizes me on a daily basis is leaving students with the ability to use music in a meaningful way throughout their life, whether that is through playing an instrument, singing, going to concerts, listening to a favorite album in the car at the end of a long day, or playing music with their own future children.
I hope that music and the arts in general will be valued appropriately in education, and that a high-quality music education can become available for all students. I believe that many administrators, non-arts educators, and parents actually do realize the tremendous importance of music in our world, but that the structure of our educational system and society at large makes it very difficult to devote an adequate amount of time to the arts in students’ days. Many schools are overburdened in remediating the effects of poverty, and often face tough decisions when it comes to allotting precious resources and instructional time between subjects. Even in well-resourced schools, high-stakes testing creates pressure to focus on non-arts subjects, counter-intuitive as this approach may be. The music education profession itself is deeply entrenched in old ways and sorely in need of a more diverse pool of teachers and leaders. Ultimately, the students who stand to benefit the most from music education often receive the least. My hope for the future is that music educators and school leaders will work to build a more inclusive system of public-school music education in which all children are valued and supported equitably.