R – I will always preach to every beginning teacher: know your complete philosophy of why you do what you do, and then let your actions – ALL of them – flow from that philosophy (why vs. what). Music teachers run into problems when they preach one thing but do even one thing contrary to or in conflict with it. I believe music education is for all students. Consequently the first thing I worked towards at each of my three gigs was to establish a graduation requirement specifically for music. This process began with a philosophical foundation that was rooted in my soul, that I could clearly articulate to students, parents and administration. Everything else flowed from THAT.
My mentor in my career has been a wise sage by the name of Marv Crawford who studied under many great masters of the 50’s and 60’s and formed his own choirs in the 70’s and 80’s out in Michigan. I met him when I was still an undergraduate, and then and now, he is forever on my case questioning why I do things the way I do them. Initially, I didn’t have an answer (“that’s what I was taught” is no answer…). Then I read Robert Shaw’s biography, Dear People. I realized that the entire book spoke to ME about my beliefs. I formed my philosophy around his ideals – not because it was Robert Shaw, but because I believed in what I was reading and learning from him. This was followed up 7 years later with Conscience of a Profession by Howard Swan. One of the cool things that happened to me this year is that I lent my copy to Jarika a while back to have her read it. When she finished it she said that she now saw where I got so much of what I teach and say. It’s been YEARS since I’ve read it, but being told that the book is still a reflection of the teacher I am today is something I am more proud of than virtually anything I can think of.
Which philosophical approach you take is not the relevant issue (mac vs. pc). The REAL issue is simple: what are the core values you hold as a music educator and rehearsal technician and why do you believe that? There are hundreds of great teachers and hundreds of great books out there and each have something valuable to offer. But before you glean the “whats” from them, you have to identify the “whys” of who you are and what you believe. Otherwise you’ll never be anything more than a mish-mash of whats. Aren’t you MORE than that?!!!
Get philosophical if you haven’t already. ARTICULATE what you believe. Do so in words that anyone can understand. It’s not your job to convince others the worthiness of your beliefs (if they’re any good at all, this will occur all by itself in due time). It IS your job to know why you do what you do. ALL the time. Get away from, “well, that seems to work” and get into “I do this because it aligns with my approaches and beliefs about music education.” Get your nose into books that approach things from a philosophical angle. Read biographies of great teachers… read texts that bend your mind a bit… read suggested readings from teachers you respect… and shape your beliefs through reading.
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