Everyday I wake up and head off to teach I feel this incredible energy that makes me think how lucky I am to do what I have always wanted to do. Many teachers face the day with that same enthusiasm. My return to Austin was brought about by a wonderful opportunity to join the faculty at the Orpheus Academy of Music. I consider myself very fortunate to be teaching at such a highly respected school with a first-rate faculty.
Almost twenty years ago I decided to return to school with the express purpose of beginning my career in music education. My dream in high school was to go to college, major in music, get a Master’s degree to be followed by a Doctorate then a career in college teaching. The mark of success had a very clear status symbol of college professor. I was well on my way until I hit a “bump” when finishing my Master’s degree at UT. After being in school for 6 years, I determined that I was sick of music and hated the piano. I decided to complete the degree and as I informed by piano professor, “never do this again.” You can imagine how lost I was. After a four-year break I started playing the piano again. I also considered returning to school. With the guidance of a wonderful mentor that I had met during my “piano break”, I returned to school in a doctoral program in music education/piano pedagogy at UT. My main focus was on finishing and getting a college job. To me, there was no other mark of status as a college teaching position. During that time I did everything I could to ensure a college position at the end of my education. When that day came I began my career as a college faculty member. Sure there were few jobs available and you pretty much had to go wherever the job was (that meant Kansas for me) but that was all part of the excitement.
My life changed dramatically in the fall of 1999 when I became Administrative Director and faculty member at a community music school program in Princeton, NJ. The depth and variety of my teaching was an enormous challenge. This experience transformed my teaching and life in terms of why I teach and what contributions I feel I can make to the piano pedagogy community. When I accepted this position, I still felt like it was just a transitional period until I got the opportunity for another college job. Because of this new direction in my life, I feel it is now my mission to spread the word regarding the rewards that are present in community music school education.
As a teacher in a community music school setting, I have had the opportunity to teach jazz piano, teach ensemble literature at a variety of levels, and even start a chamber music program while always providing a solid foundation to the most basic beginning student or graduating senior that is going off to college to become a music major. I have seen adult students experience the joy of music making for the first time at 50 and beyond. As a faculty member, we have the opportunity to collaborate with other wonderful musicians on recitals and also be presented on solo programs. We also have the opportunity to participate in other professional development programs and pedagogy forums on a regular basis. Our work is very collaborative and stimulating on many different levels; musically, professionally, and personally. The opportunity exists every day for me to make a difference in my students’ lives. I realize the importance of my teaching as well as the responsibility that goes along with it. I have the opportunity
to grow and learn everyday from my students, as well as, my colleagues. Community school teaching has made a significant difference in my life.
Lenny Recorded his CD titled "Star Wars"
on December 15th, 2010 at age 7
I had fun preparing for the home concert. It also helped me to stay in touch with the piano. I enjoyed the opportunity to share music with my family and friends. I asked my mom to make an ear game: she would play a key on the piano and I would guess what was the note she played. I really got ambitious about guessing it correctly.
As a reward for my [Level 1] home concert, I went to Star Wars in concert with my mom. This inspired me to make my own variations on Star Wars which then became the core piece of my CD [Level 2]. When I learned “Prowling Pussy Cat” in piano class (which is also on my CD), I was nervous because there were so many sharp and flat signs that I thought it would take me a month to learn it. However, it took me only two days to learn how to play this piece without music which made me feel great and cool. I was confident, but also a bit anxious when I did the recording for my CD. I felt great about the outcome of my CD and was proud to present it to my family, teachers and friends as a holiday gift.
Music became our bonding language. Listening to Lenny’s music, his creativity on the piano, practicing together and playing duet was heart warming—especially during a very rough time in first grade. Preparing the program for the home concert and inviting friends required intense collaboration and helped with organizational and coordination skills. It always amazes me how Lenny demonstrates stamina with his piano practice, maximum focus for performances and ambition while recording his pieces for the CD!
Home concert and CD recording were fun long term projects keeping up Lenny’s motivation to work hard over several weeks.
~Isabelle (Lenny’s mom)
More about A Musical Journey program