Updated: Jul 1, 2021
I'm Sarah, and I'm a music educator and composer from Connecticut. I'm in my seventh year of public school teaching, and have taught band, chorus, and general music in grades K-8. (My not-so-secret favorites are elementary band and general music!)
I believe that music education should be meaningful and joyful!
Giving students the chance to be total music-makers, integral to all musical processes, helps set them on a path to realizing their potentials.
Going hand in hand with that, I think the music classroom is one of the best places to teach students beyond the music. That might not make sense at first thought. But the fact that music incorporates so many processes- planning, composing, rehearsing, revising, performance, critique- means there are countless opportunities to model emotional literacy, empathy, and other crucial life skills.
In fact, teaching beyond the music for me goes as far as to mean that the result (often the performance, but sometimes another product) is often less important than the process it takes to get there.
Yep. The actual musical part of the learning- which is still important!- often can take a backseat to the process, for a variety of reasons. (I actually talk more about this in an episode of HERstory, a podcast hosted by Casidy Reed, calling it process over product. In fact, that's the name of the episode!)
Maybe some of this is starting to click with you, or maybe you are rolling your eyes at me right now. How can music not be the more important part of music class? So I'll share how I first came to believe in process over product.
When I first began teaching, I was rebuilding a music program in a K-8 school. I had a lot of freedom, which appealed to my leader/planner side, but I was beginning from square one in many ways, which intimidated me. I thought I had to be like the big schools with the big music programs and big ensembles. Because I wanted everyone to see the power of the arts and how valuable they were to both students and the community at large.
That was an admirable goal. But I was so product-oriented that I let other equally important aspects go underdeveloped. Always teaching with the concert in mind (disturbingly similar to the idea of teaching to the test) didn't allow my students to be total music-makers. It let them be performers.
Music is so, so much more than performance.
As a composer primarily, I should have taken that to heart. And as I became more self-reflective as an educator, I promised myself that I would help illuminate the invisible, behind-the-scenes processes of music education, which are just as valid and worth of teaching as performing.
More than that, those other processes would give kids more experiences as musicians. More opportunities to find meaning, be joyful, and learn in diverse ways. And more moments to build those crucial life skills I talked about before.
That's a lot to think about! Maybe you're feeling overwhelmed, not overjoyed, at these ideas. Music teachers already have so much to teach. We give up so much of our time for our jobs and our students. Many of us are burnt out from the drastic changes to our curriculums, school environments, and even teaching styles this year. And here I am telling you that I believe these things are at the core of meaningful music education, so we should be striving to make them happen in our classrooms.
It's a process, for sure. I'm by no means a new teacher, but I don't have all the answers either. Like you, I'm learning new things every day. It takes time and courage to incorporate new things into our teaching routines.
But I want to make my music education more meaningful, joyful, and diverse for my students. I want to help them become better humans through music by empowering them musically, emotionally, and intellectually. Because I believe that music is the best way to help students learn how to navigate and develop so many life skills, not just a lifelong love of music-making!
That's why I consider myself a different musician.
If this resonates with you, stay tuned! I'm here to help you morph your music routines and lessons into music education beyond the music, to focus on process over product, and to bring meaning and joy to your classroom in new ways.