My life as a Musician-What it taught me about learning


imgresMy purpose in this blog, Reach for the Stars, is exactly that: to motivate teachers, parents and administrators to inspire their students to reach for the stars. I talk about my view of how to do this and my educational passions. I have had the privilege to have two careers, the first one as a professional musician, and the second as an educational consultant and teacher to create and implement integrated arts programs. I don’t talk about my music career in this venue for several reasons. The first is that it is past for me and a life from which I decided to move forward for several reasons. Second, my purpose in this blog is not to talk about my life, but to inspire others to find theirs. This morning I read this blog post and I realized that I make daily references to students about skills that I have, that I learned in my time studying music or as a musician. I don’t label them as such, but their importance is never understated in my mind. I wouldn’t trade those skills or that time for anything.

Music is the ultimate activity to boost critical thinking skills. It is another language through which one interprets the works of others, maybe through both words and notes, and has to do more than one thing at a time. It requires one to practice skills that will build on the next level of mastery (like mathematics). It uses the spatial and analytical skills of math and the physics of acoustics and the science of sound. You must understand history and political situations of the times as well as other art forms used. There is physical involvement and coordination and literature and above all CREATIVE EXPRESSION, my favorite term to repeat ad nauseam.

Teachers and students alike that know me (even going back to my music students) understand my mantra: Learning is a process and a series of experiences through which trial and error will give you a product, not one that may be final, just final for now. As you evolve through this process, you will refine and improve. It is never-ending. The need to be done just will not work. Every day and every experience is different, building on what you will do next.

Back to my music days. . . I know that as a student who earned two degrees in vocal performance that I understood one thing for sure about music education: No matter how smart you are, how talented you are, or how much money you have, you will have to work at this. Although certain aspects of those characteristics which are present in more or less amounts do make a difference, the bottom line is no one buys or fakes their way into a career in music. I enjoyed the daily work at drills, equating that to what an Olympic athlete would do to become the best. I loved working with others to perfect my craft, analyzing and using the process to improve. I was short on patience I suppose, but again, I loved the learning, the process and working at something to improve. These skills apply to anything. I had the discipline to repeat and perfect without frustration(at least most of the time).

I recall studying in Italy with a well-known Maestro and spending countless hours in his dark, dingy studio, repeating one phrase of a famous aria over and over for days to get it right. It was probably 2 seconds of music. So therein lies the lesson. We need to work at things to get better. Education is a process that one embarks through life in which we integrate and incorporate all of our skills as human beings. We take these things and try to make something new-whether it is my version of a piece of music or someone else’s idea on how to make a better Mars Rover. As I have said to students, “You go through life collecting things in your bucket, when the time is right, you start to take things out of your bucket to share.” Now I am taking things out and at the same time, putting new things in. And above all, one must have something to say. Both the arts and sciences are vehicles for this “something to say.” The vessel is all that differs.

So, I have told you more about who I am and what makes me passionate about education, not just music education, but the thorough and inclusive education that our children deserve. Teachers and parents please take my message to heart. Don’t think music is only for the super talented, super smart or super rich. It is for all children. These are life lessons that can’t be learned any other way.

Taylor class with STEAM projects

STEAM students display their projects

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