Recently I was invited to speak at the Music Teachers National Conference in Anaheim, CA as part of their “Pedagogy Saturday” track. The topic I was asked to speak on was called “Starting from scratch” and they wanted me to discuss how I started Orpheus Academy of Music nearly ten years ago. I noticed the conference organizers looked a little nervous as I begin my talk with “I really have no interest in talking about ‘how’ to open a music school – I would much rather talk about ‘why’ I opened a music school.”
I have long believed what Simon Sinek so effectively articulated in his TED Talk that companies that consistently and effectively articulate their “why” will always outpace those that are more focused on their “how.” In order to generate the energy, the creativity, the commitment to excellence and all the other intangibles necessary to achieve greatness, you have to not only know why you are doing something, you have to keep that message present in your mind every day.
So why do we teach music? Where does the passion to create new and innovative programs for guitar, piano, violin and voice each year? Why go through the hassle of creating a new summer schedule to offer things like World Music Camp, Chamber Music Camp and Guitar Camp every year when other schools just keep their lessons the same year-round?
It is because we are deeply connected to the idea that we are changing young lives through music lessons. Part of the system for creating a culture that changes lives through music lessons is sharing our stories with each other. This brings us closer together, helps us problem solve together and, most importantly, keeps us alive to our Mission.
For example, a piano teacher recently shared about her lessons with an 18 year old recovering from a brain tumor operation has given him renewed reason to get up in the morning despite severe physical handicaps. A guitar teacher has shared how engaging his students in duets and trios has provided his students with a sense of community that has resulted in them getting together to play music rather than video games. A violin teacher shared how one of his students who came to him with a debilitating sense of low self-esteem has recently begun to take great pride in his playing and wants to perform for family, friends and even in the school talent show.
By sharing our stories we grow stronger, more willing to take risks, engage in innovative and exciting new teaching techniques and, most of all, able to share our joy in making music with the world. All the details of the “how” of running a music school flow easily and naturally from this state of mind.
Dr. Klondike Steadman
Orpheus Academy of Music, Director