Allowing Their Voice

When we challenge students to find the voice within their musical expression, we often create boundaries (intentionally or otherwise) that can alter/enhance the expressive perspective of the students. If we do not allow for relevance and limit them to our expected expression, the investment and creation generated from the students Read more of this post

Reflections on the box

There are many discussions in our profession today about traditional vs nontraditional approach to the music (ensemble) classroom. I have reflected on my own identity, as well as my experiences and mentors that helped shape it. As I move forward, there is a consistent struggle Read more of this post

Not my job.

The answer is “I don’t know why they can’t ________, we covered that in class.” Now, more importantly, what was the question? Too often, music educators utilize this answer to a myriad of questions about why their students could not, would not, don’t, or can’t demonstrate a vital component of “musicianship” on demand. Unfortunately, the real question should be about whether that lesson really “covered it in class.”

When lessons are taught, understanding should be our goal (of course, that does not mean memorization). Allowing students the opportunity to engage with the material in relevant (to their own lives) and multi-perspectival ways is vital for students to continue developing understanding of that material (with both breadth and depth). Read more of this post

Confessional

So, I’ve decided that it is time to confess. I have participated in, vehemently supported, and even led the perpetuation of a tradition, without every questioning it. Now, by the very nature of a tradition, newbies are not usually in a position to question. The focus is on conformity. As I grew up within this tradition, I learned the inner workings, the subtle variations, and became skilled at keeping the tradition intact. The past couple of years, the tradition has felt incomplete (for me) and I started looking for alternate opportunities. Now, I feel comfortable enough to offer my formal confession… My name is Nathan Johnston, and I am a band director.

On the surface, being identified as a “band director” seems harmless. And in many ways, I still feel that it is harmless. But, when working with students from a variety of communities, cultures, interests, and abilities, being ONLY a band director can be limiting. Read more of this post

What makes a tuba a tuba?

What makes a band a band? What makes a choir a choir? What makes an orchestra an orchestra? What makes music music? What makes…  As I continue to travel this glorious rabbit hole called a PhD, I am constantly challenged on my beliefs and understandings of what music is, what being a musician is, what being a music educator is, and the complex relationship between each of these. The identity I have as a band director only encapsulates a small portion of my musical being. Read more of this post

Start From the End, Don’t End at the Start

Over the past few days of this enlightening SMTE experience, I have been left with a persistent and nagging question… are we teaching our students to meet today’s standards, or are we empowering them to create tomorrow’s? For many, reflection on this will provide false security and validation. Unfortunately, many are chasing their tail, hoping for a new outcome and creative solution to the age old problems with music education. What if we didn’t try so hard to “solve” those problems? What if we stopped chasing our tail and just ran with the wind? Read more of this post

Staying Engaged

Teaching is hard. Teaching music is hard. Teaching in 2013 is hard. Finding time to stay connected to my own music is hard. Finding opportunities to just play and not conduct, not program, not rehearse, not fill out POs, not do transportation requests, not answer emails, not have meetings, not … well, its hard to sit down and just play. BUT, it’s important. Read more of this post

Whatever you do, don’t let “their music” in here!

As the last few opportunities for “me” time start to fade away, and the end of that glorious time of year that we call “summer vacation” becomes real, I am renewed in my dedication to music education. As a musician, I have been trained in a multitude of technical, musical, and nonsensical means of storytelling through my instrument. As an educator, the training has been much the same… exploring various approaches to adapt to the ever changing community of learners (like a dart board on a merry-go-round). When I committed to pursuing this final degree, I was unaware of how much impact my experiences would have on my own reflections and practices.

We are currently at, in my humble opinion, a tipping point in music education (yes, it absolutely can be argued the same for ALL of education, but I am choosing to focus on music). Read more of this post

Enjoying the ride

As I ventured into my graduate studies, looking for new challenges, I had no idea what was in store. The twists and turns that my musical, educational, and professional brains would journey through have been exciting, frustrating, and of course, left me with more questions than answers. My background as a musician (and music educator) is firmly rooted in the instrumental ensemble tradition. This was where I came from… this is what I recreated in my own classroom… but now it feels different. Read more of this post

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