Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Music




     So, as anyone who normally reads my blog might know, I am a music teacher. I teach general music and chorus at the middle school level. My students are 10-14 years old. Music has always been important to me throughout my whole life.
     I have always loved to sing, dance and play music. Neither of my parents were musical but they encouraged me to get involved. (My mom did dance around the house with me many times, much to the annoyance of my dad, who is much more serious.)  I have many, many happy memories of music within my extended family. My Bampa (grandfather on my mom's side) loved Irish music and both he and my Nana would sing Irish traditional songs to me. They also took me to many "concerts on the green," which I think developed my love of performing in some of these outdoor concerts as an adult. On my dad's side, my grandmother sang and played the piano with me. I vividly remember sitting at her piano and trying to plunk out tunes. She later bought us our piano when I was in 3rd grade.  My great-uncle Don also used to sing with me.
     In 3rd grade, I began flute lessons. They were okay. I did well. I also joined chorus in school. I loved that. On Christmas that year, my family was given a piano. I started lessons immediately and was asked to choose between the flute and the piano since it was a financial strain on my family.  I chose the piano, knowing that the knowledge I gained from piano lessons might be more transferable. I am so glad that I chose the piano. Every year at Christmas, my cousin Tom and I would play piano together (and have a little friendly competition at who was better!). It was a tradition in my house to have a big open house on Christmas Eve. Everybody was invited- friends from school, old family friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. It also became tradition to carol together. This was very special to me because I don't know too many families who would actually get together and sing as a group. (It wasn't always pretty, but 98% of the people sang.)
     Throughout my middle school and high school years music became on of my best friends.   By this point I was still singing in chorus, as well as trying out for festival choruses and any select choruses that I could. I played piano in jazz band and still took lessons. I had also joined concert and marching band and was mostly playing mallets in the percussion section. (I ended up playing xylophone, glockenspiel, double bass, bass guitar, and all the rest of the percussion section by the end of high school.) At home, I was playing the piano a lot. When I had friends over and felt like goofing around, we sang around the piano. When I was angry, I played the piano. When I was celebrating something, I played. When I was sad or upset I also played.  There were many things I had to say- but most I didn't want to share with anyone. Music was my way of getting those things out. Music in many ways became my refuge and my safe place when things were going badly.
     Music also gave me the opportunity to meet tons of kids my age from different places. I was lucky enough to perform with the Sound of America Honor Choir one year. We traveled to Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France. The tour had kids from 48 different states. I worked my butt off to raise the money to go. It was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I also realized that I was lucky enough to travel to all of these "exotic" places while neither one of my parents had ever even been out of the country and my dad had never been on a plane.
     When it was time to choose a career, I considered music ed or pre-med. I could talk until I'm blue in the face about the importance of the arts and what good things come out of learning music but for me, I get excited that I get to help my students develop their souls.  In school there are not many places where kids can express themselves emotionally in a variety of ways. (At least in an appropriate way). They are asked to individually contribute while still collaborating with others. They are asked to sometimes put the group first, but demand personal excellence at the same time. When I listen to my students sing, I can usually tell how their days have gone. I am happy to be giving them academic knowledge about the subject of music while also encouraging them to develop their own musicianship and expression. I love ending my day with my choruses and seeing the joy in their eyes as they sing. (It also helps to end my day with a bunch of kids who have chosen to be there.. lol)
     Ironically, in my personal life. I like performing music more than I like listening to music. To me, a lot of music feels "canned" since I'm so used to being in the middle of it while it's being performed.  As an adult, I appreciate seeing the effect my performance has on an audience or to an individual. I do not like being showy or performing for personal attention, but occasionally I'll see someone who is deeply moved by a performance and that is really special to me.
     Tomorrow, I will share some of my current "favorite pieces."  What are your favorite pieces? I'd love to check them out. Do any of you have similar experiences with music in your own life?

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