What Every Music Teacher Wants You To Know

There are some stereotypes about music teachers in this country and for some reason, they’ve been getting to me lately. Generally, I avoid discussing my career on here because honestly, I have a great job. I get to play games, teach kids how to create music, and I get most of the summers off. You won’t hear me complaining about the pay (except in jest) and frankly, there aren’t many music jobs out there. My district has brand new, state of the art buildings with SMART boards in every room. I am NOT intending to write this post about my specific job, just the general problems that any music teacher can appreciate. Now, with that being said, here I go….

1. We get really tired of people thinking that our job is nothing but fun and games.

English: Young Children (Suzuki students) Play...

Nope. No work was required to get to this point. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was once asked, “Are you a real teacher or just a music teacher?” Questions like that make my blood boil. Obviously, I can’t get the entire world to see it my way, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m a teacher. My subject happens to be music. I say that in the same way that someone would say they teach high school biology. Music is defined as a core academic subject in No Child Left Behind. Music has National and State Academic Content Standards, just as any other subject. It is my job to make sure that my students master the material. I just have about 22 hours of instruction time per school year to make that happen.

2. The general public thinks that they know everything about what I do, and that anyone can do it.

I played guitar in a band in high school! What do you mean I can’t teach band better than you?

Every nincompoop who has ever touched a drum tells me they can “play” the drums. Now, some of these people actually can. I am totally not a music snob and I understand there’s a huge difference between being a talented amateur musician and someone who just beats on things. However, unless you have a music degree, don’t pretend like you could do my job. It’s not common knowledge and there’s way more to it than you think. Unless you have had to be tested on everything from music history, educational psychology, your performance of a concerto for an audience of highly trained professionals, memorization of fingerings for the bassoon (and every other instrument), etc., don’t tell me you could do my job.

3. We have to constantly remind people why what we do is important, for fear of losing our programs.

This is what happened to the last guy who threatened to cut music.

 I’d say most music teachers live in constant fear that we’re going to lose our jobs. We fear it not just for ourselves, but for our students. After all, who do you think inspired us to teach music? That’s right – our music teachers. Without music programs in schools, we risk losing part of our culture for the future. When we examine past cultures, what do we use to judge how civilized they were? Paintings, musical compositions, architecture, tools, language, and clothing. In other words – ART. In fact, we use the fine arts of past cultures to judge how much they knew about our current so-called “core subjects.”

Do you think people in the future are going to look at our standardized test scores to see how well we lived? Of course not. They’re going to study our ability to create ART.

And along the same lines….

4. We really hate using other subject areas to justify our subject.

If one more person mentions the “Mozart Effect” I’ll scream!

Yes, it’s totally true that instruction in music helps people to understand math and science better. It raises college entrance test scores. It forms new synapses in the brain, connecting the two hemispheres better than any other subject can. In fact, stroke patients who are no longer able to speak can sometimes still sing songs and use that for speech therapy. So yeah, I guess you should learn music because it makes you smarter.


Music teachers are so tired of using that spiel in order to defend what we do. We didn’t go into teaching music because we wanted to get better at math. We want what we do to be valued for its own purpose. We want people to think it’s important to have music in schools, well, just because it is! Imagine your life without music.

Silent commercials and movies, with the exception of dialogue. Awkward silences while shopping. Silent car rides. All in all, pretty boring. We teach music because it’s like painting for your ears. It expresses emotions. It can even change your emotions.

5. People think that you can’t test what we teach, and that every student should be given an A.

Brian was devastated that his daughter didn’t pass choir. After all, she sang during at least half of the days she was there.

Music teachers are data-driven teachers who use research and self-reflection to constantly assess the effectiveness of their instruction and to improve their teaching methods, just as any other teacher does. Yes, you can give a test on how well little Johnny plays the trumpet. The notes are either right or wrong, in tune or not, played for the correct duration or not, and so on. Using a rubric, it is possible to assign fair grades to students based upon performances and written tests that are based upon facts taught during class. No, your child should not be given an automatic A in a performance-based class. Grades are earned based on your child’s demonstration that he or she has mastered the skills taught in class, which are based upon the academic content standards in music.

6. We really do love our jobs – and our students!

We mean it. We are some of the only teachers who literally get to watch our students grow up. Music teachers usually have their students for multiple consecutive years and form great bonds with them. Our jobs are super fun and best of all, we get to do what we love every day – make music.


About Facetious Firecracker

I observe the world and say what everyone is thinking, but is too afraid to say.

Posted on July 6, 2012, in Rants and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 413 Comments.

  1. Confucius say: all people who not grasp harmony and analyses think world flat in past life.

  2. I. Freaking. Love this. Reblogged!

    • I’m so glad! Also, I thought the angry chick looks kind of like you. What do you think? Huge thanks for the re-blog. I’m flattered!

      • My hair isn’t as short as hers anymore, but I’m pretty sure I make that face on a regular basis. 🙂 I also shared this post on Twitter with the hashtag #musedchat, so hopefully you’re getting some decent traffic from that too. Are you on Twitter?

      • I’m on Twitter, but I never use it because I’m overwhelmed by the disjointed conversations and general Twitter code. My brain explodes trying to decipher what each tweet is actually saying.

  3. Reblogged this on #Virtually Speaking and commented:
    This is an elementary music teacher, so my points would not be exactly the same from a h/s perspective, but an energetic post.

  4. I’m a h/s band director…..so the points would be slightly different, but I love your enthusiasm and your points are spot on.

  5. Reblogged this on Alison's Music Blog and commented:
    I really connected with this blog post. I hope you like it too!

  6. I really connected with your post, so I’ve reblogged it 🙂

  7. runningthroughdaisies

    This is so wonderful. I played several instruments throughout school, and was debating on going to college for Music Education, and as much as I love music realized it was going to be harder than what I thought it would be. And I wanted to enjoy music, so I kept it as a hobby. I seriously think that people who think it is easy just need to try it out.

    • You’re right – it is tough, but very enjoyable with a lot of work. People think they have to be born with talent in order to be successful, and it’s very much not the case. Hard work will get you much further than any amount of talent ever will.

  8. Great Post! You sound very committed to what you do and that’s great too! I played music professionally for a number years and tried my hand at teaching guitar. Your right people generally don’t get what it really takes to be committed to any musical endeavor. Because of that, they think anyone can do it.

    • Yes! How about, “Uhhh, can’t anyone play drums? All you do it hit it, right?”

      • Lol! Yes, anyone can hit them but actually keeping a beat and playing around in the melody is something entirely different….

      • LOL! You are so right. I am a former music composition major who prides himself in being able to pick up most any instrument and puzzle out at least a major scale fairly quickly, so I bought an electronic drum set thinking “How hard can this be?” A few days later I returned it to the store with a new respect for drummers.

  9. Reblogged this on ramblinginthecity and commented:
    the arts need equal if not higher place in education. this piece really touched me. the high-handed attitude towards teachers of the arts is annoying…

  10. Loved it. Keep banging the drum !!!

  11. I love silence, but because of playing music for many years, drumming, playing marimba,
    violin etc., I have damaged my ears.
    There is a constant sound in my ears.
    I would like silence in supermarkets, because the sound in my ears will get louder.
    But unfortunatly, it’s never quiet anymore.
    Without music my life is just as good. But without the sound in my ears it would be better.
    But I understand the meaning of music to some people. It can bring pleasure.

  12. Fantastic post. Well said and some good information to be absorbed too. Music makes me happier than I thought I could be and it works every time!

  13. There are only some music teacher in my country and I think it can be counted. I also play musical instrument but I never intended my hobby to become my occupation. We humans are different from each other and we have our own views. Dont give up on our own view as it will make as give up on ourselves. 🙂

  14. Great post. I love music, have some on all the time. Sadly, when I played the flute, although I could play the notes perfectly well, I prefered to play at my own speed (generally too fast) not the speed the composer intended 🙂

  15. its useful for a music teacher.

  16. LOL! Sending this to a sibling — she’s a music teacher and is going to love this. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  17. At the risk of perpetuating my parent’s lament about contemporary music, there is something horribly wrong with music today. Turn on the radio and you get what I have labeled as cRap where every other word has to be bleeped and the overarching message about drugs and sex is presented in an unmistakable and overt manner. Please, bring back I, IV V, which has proven to be timeless (and you know what I mean when I say that). All we have today are so-called artists with a gangster, drug dealing pasts who steal lyrics and melodies from past artists to be incorporated into their own “piece of work”. Sad and pathetic.

    • A-freaking-men. I’ve planned for some time to write a post about the downfall of music as we know it. I have regular conversations with my students about how the music that they think is music is nothing but computers. I’ve converted many of them.

  18. Reblogged this on bowlcolonial and commented:
    This is what everybody needs to hear!

  19. Great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  20. Exactly right! As an art teacher it is so close to home! Thanks!

  21. This is perfect. Same goes for us music therapists! It is exhausting defending what we do, isn’t it? But the results of what we do make it so worth it!

  22. Fantastic post. I love music and play the violin at school. My music teachers are amazing and i hate it how its always the music department that is affected by budget cuts.

    • You can do something to help! Start a fundraiser. Speak to your school board (with a group of parents and students) about why your music teachers are awesome. Administrators will ALWAYS listen to parents/students over teachers.

  23. This post should be entitled “What Every Music/Creative Writing/Classics Teacher Wants You To Know”. We’re all in this together.

  24. Yes, THIS, so much! As an aspiring school library media specialist (AKA, library teacher) this is close to my heart. Thanks for writing.

  25. Reblogged this on Impybat's Emporium and commented:
    I’m not a music teacher, but I’m entering a School Library Media program in September, so this topic is dear to me. Music, and art, and the written word are all essential, vital parts of the human experience. All of these things speak to us, inspire, heal, and move us. They are how we chronicle history. They are necessary.

  26. I know I got so much more out of band and music classes that I ever did out of any math class. Of course, part of that could be because I’m math-challenged. However, I still think kids learn teamwork and thinking skills from music as much or more than from sports or many other academic subjects. Kudos to you and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • I’m math-challenged, too, but I know music helped to develop that logical side of my brain. If only every administrator in this country understood that music will HELP them to get those lofty test scores they want. No one can afford to cut music.

  27. I have a few friends in music programs. I never thought being a musician was easy, but now i know the dedication that goes into it just from listening to them talk about their classes. Music teachers are a class of their own (pun not intended).

  28. A well-written, great blog! I’ll be sharing it with my niece who’s also a passionate music teacher. You can also list language as one of your teaching skills: “Music is the universal language of mankind.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 😉

  29. Bravo…on telling it like it is; on being Fresh Pressed! Parents (and the rest of us) need to hear what you have to say! Reblogging your post!

    • Thank you so much! Parents are the most important people to me, as a teacher. The success of our students and of our programs depend completely on you. If you have a child who takes music, why don’t you think about presenting to your school board about why your music teachers are important? Thanks so much for the reblog.

      • AMEN! Are you tuned in to an organization called AMP – American Music Parents? They would love to feature this – check them out at AMparents.org

  30. Reblogged this on Laura Lamere and commented:
    In case anyone out there believes the stereotypes about music teachers…

  31. I’m glad you wrote about this. Obviously you are experiencing most of this first-hand and personally. I find it ridiculous that art and drama are the first things that are cut in school programs as they are seen as extra-curricular. There are skills to be learned in making music, and there is a skill to teaching. A good music teacher is not to be underrated, just because it may not “look” difficult to teach. Kudos to you!

  32. THANK YOU! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SAYING THIS!!! It is so true, and it’s awesome that you’re getting out there and saying it!

  33. Keep up the good work! As a middle school English teacher, people think we just play around. It’s much more involved than mist think…You see the creative side of my kids that I don’t always see. Thank you for that.

  34. I think it is a disgrace how there has been an attack on teachers in general in the past few years, claiming they make too much money, have too much benefits, or have too many holidays, etc. Teaching in the classroom is only part of the picture. My wife spends countless unpaid hours outside of the classroom preparing lessons and trying to think of ways to engage the children so they will find it interesting – competing with video games and i-pods. She has to deal with parents that just don’t take any interest in thier child’s work but expect the teacher to give them an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ anyway. My brother struggled to attend college for 10 years, became an English teacher, then had to quit because the pay just wasn’t enough to make ends meet in NY. When I was young, music is what kept me out of trouble when the kids on the block were getting into bad things. It taught me how to focus and strive for greater things from myself (something math never did) and since I wasn’t big into sports, music is what kept me going to school. It’s where I felt appreciation and got praise for my efforts. So, now I’d like to give you praise for your efforts. Thank you for being a music teacher and giving our youth some much needed cultural lessons and benefit!

  35. You forgot one. Well, two:

    1) You really, really can get to be VERY GOOD at music.
    2) But you’ll have to work at it. Hard.

  36. I know what you mean, I teach cello and piano……and am an artist. So people really misunderstand that the arts isn’t just fun and games. It takes hard work.

  37. Wow you make some good points in this article. What I want to know is where did you get the photos and did you have to pay for them?

  38. People don’t understand that to be a music teacher like you and I are, takes everything from you, it is like you have to be constantly performing for the kids so that they can keep engaged and interested in what you are teaching. It is one of the most mentally, and physically challenging jobs in this world. Keep up the good work and keep those kids singing on pitch! 🙂

    • Yes! We don’t have time to check email, write passes, etc. because there is no down time in our classes. We can’t sit behind a desk while our students do paperwork because WE are the work. It’s like we’re performing for 8 hours a day.

  39. “It’s like painting for your ears” LOVE IT! Thanks for sharing!

  40. Don’t mean to nitpick, but you jumped from #4 to #6.

  41. In Mexico, there no music class in school.
    My mother’s generation learned to read music scores, I had an hour to sing songs like “cielito lindo” and “la pajarera” in primary school, and later in high school musical education, changed from appreciation to recorder (flute) play. Nobody learned to read scores because we learn to play popular music, we just learned the melody and simulate to read the score, the teachers were not trained to teach score reading to high school kids, although they played some instrument. The recorder class was a profitable business, every kid in high school need to buy one. That is not really bad, but the goal was to receive money from the approved manufacturer not to teach music.
    Today it seems that no music is taught any more. (I have not seen parents buying recorders each year).
    Anyway, you say music is important because it helps to understand math, etc.
    That is maybe true (I think it is) but another goal, very well achieved in Mexico, was to not teach mathematics. The quality of primary education is unbelievable low, I was programmed since long time ago by an endless series of corrupt governments since the mid 60s, the same destiny for literature.

    Some subjects have been partially or totally eliminated: geography, a general view of the laws, and rights. History.

    Mexican politicians had bet to control population by means of ignorance and TV manipulation. Today is an scandal how millions of poor and ignorant citizens sold their vote in the last election, for 100-500 pesos (8-35 usd aprox), they are not aware that it is against the law, because they have no idea of what a senator or deputy is. They protested because politicians of the PRI offered them a gift card with 500 pesos but only received 100 pesos.
    That ignorance started believe or not by removing music from primary school curricula. It is just the beginning of a policy to teach the minimum necessary.
    What kind of citizens can be formed without a complete education? unproductive, looking for “easy” money, nothing good to have an stable society.
    I maybe detour from the subject of this blog, but how disappointed am I today with such imposition of an ignorant dictator like the PRI candidate in Mexico.

  42. Josephus-Joppa

    I’m a college senior music student and even I can appreciate this. This is what I think o my teachers all the time! So I had to share this, because I love it and it’s the truth!

  43. I totally agree with you! I was in band in high school and the beginning of college and all of my teachers told me I needed to blow off band because it wasn’t important and that my band director never did anything but listen to music in his office.

    I would like to see my math teacher get up at 5:00a.m. to be at the field by 6 and conducting a 300 piece marching band that you spent all summer preparing for.

  44. I think you got me scared by that green fist of incredible hulk you got there. But if u hate it,why don’t you stop using other subject areas to justify your subject. But if i makes any difference, i really honestly don’t think i can do what you do.

  45. This is so great! I really wish that I appreciated my music teachers more as I was growing up. Thank you for what you do!


  46. I especially liked number 5 because I think it reflects the common perception that music/art is entirely subjective. Yes, one person can prefer composition A to composition B and their preference is subjective but when someone tries to argue that Skrillex is just as good as Bach because “it’s all subjective” they just show how little they know about music!

  47. I especially liked the point about enjoying music for music’s sake and not for the ancillary benefits. You’re right. No one goes into music to thicken their corpus callosum.
    Also, the image of music being like painting to the ears is beautiful.
    Music actually highlights, modifies, and often creates moods. It’s beautiful. And it’s a discipline. Hence, teaching it requires skill—not only in music, but also in teaching.
    Lovely post.

  48. As an amateur musician I have to say that I absolutely loved some of my music teachers. The fact that I had them multiple years was a huge influence in my life. I think what you do is important and I thank you for your efforts. Cheers.

  49. From the perspective of a life-long band nerd, percussionist, bachelor of music performance, music educator, and now PhD student in educational psychology, this hit home! I get so very tired of feeling like I wasn’t a “real” teacher…

    • It’s reassuring to hear that the title is actually true. I was afraid that other educators would get upset that I was speaking for them.

      • I’m not sure the title is necessarily true…it’s just a personal feeling that I am plagued with – luckily (for them!), no one has come right out and said it. I suppose it’s more of a feeling of being on the periphery of education? Now I feel like I need to go play some flam drags…

  50. Art and music go hand-in-hand… standardized tests go test-in-butt, for me anyhow. I should clarify that tests are in my butt in a totally non-sexual way. Nice post! 😀

  51. I think the world would be a much better place if we’d just stop judging other people’s jobs, making assumptions about them and thinking one is better or more important than another – when we’d just always remember that each profession – and each person – is just as important, valuable and necessary as our own, and respect other people’s skills and knowledge…

    It was kind of strange to see this post on Freshly Pressed when I’d just come home pretty grumpy and all ready to write a post of the: “Customers:Don’t do this when you’re shopping for plants!” variety.

  52. Fun and games? Really? I’m a science major and the only subject i’ve ever taken seriously in my life is music. Although it’s been 5 odd years since i’ve quit learning music due to life catching up, I still remember my music teacher as vividly as I do my own reflection. Noone I know, teacher or professor, has been more passionate about his subject than my music teacher. Music gives us joy, learning, teaching, playing. To me, my music and my music teacher have taught me more about life and the universe than science or college.

    I wish I can continue learning music all my life.
    To you, and all brilliant musicians dedicating their lives to teaching, spreading this wonderful art, lots of respect and a whole lotta love.


  53. harnony its a gift and a talent

  54. I love this! I’m a grad student studying to become an English teacher, and even that subject seems to get a lot of flack for not being as important as math or science. Cheers to music education and cheers to you!

  55. Well done, fellow teacher. I wanted to be a band director but realized I didn’t have the chops and switched to English. Smartest thing I ever did. I was much more naturally talented, but I still play the French horn. And I know for a FACT that I owe much of my “normalcy” to music. It was the one constant in a variable life. Continue teaching and defending the arts!

  56. Spot on! A good friend of mine teaches the piano, and complains that people frequently underestimate the preparation and work that goes into teaching. I’m an English teacher, and also have to defend myself when told ‘it must be nice to just mess around all day’!

  57. You love what you do. Your students love what you do. Parents love what you do. Win, win, win. You’re awesome!

  58. i love what you do because I love music always and forever!

  59. Meri Dolevski-Lewis

    Amazing post, shared it with a few music friend and teachers. (Musician and private music teacher myself, clarinetist,pianist, composer, arranger, and writer on music. Even my parents believe some of these myths, and some of the parents I and my husband (also a musician and teacher) deal with.

  60. Thank you for being a music teacher. I was blessed that my Grandmother introduced me to music at a very young age. I play the flute very well (started in 6th grade and played through college), and I play the piano well enough for family sing-a-longs and my own enjoyment but that is about it. I couldn’t do either with out the love, support, dedication of my music teachers – both public school teachers and private tutors. Today music is like oxygen for me. I will listen to anything once and have been told that my iPod is a scary place. =) So again thank you for being a music teacher you teach culture, passion, and for me a way of life.

  61. adaptivelearnin

    Hey just noticed you were Freshly Pressed. Congrats! That is awesome. Now the message is loud and clear. Thanks for being so honest. Have I contected with you yet on Twitter?

    • I feel like you were the one who got all this traffic started. Thanks for sharing this on twitter! No, we haven’t connected. I’m on twitter, but I never use it. It scares me.

      • Aww! Thanks! I’m glad the sharing of your post led to this for you. It is really a great post and so true. Thanks for your honesty. I look forward to reading more of your posts as I get time. No prob with not connecting on Twitter, we are connected on WordPress now. I always like to connect with fellow music teachers. We all understand and can relate to each other. Great to have you in my network. Have a great week!

  62. Great post, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  63. Great post! Glad you are getting such good traffic – I’m so thankful for all the music teachers I had throughout my education, because music was what made life make a little bit more sense sometimes.

  64. What do I think? It’s simple: Thank you.

  65. captivatestrings

    Thanks for this Blog – I’m a Teacher Educator specializing in music – Sydney, Australia. Thanks for reminding us of the joys and the challenges of our job. I especially like the points you make about having to justify our subject – it is and should be a core academic subject and we should NOT have to justify it in terms of benefits to other subjects – I certainly did NOT study a music degree to get better at maths 🙂

    • I’m sorry to hear that people don’t think music is important in Australia, either. Keep fightin’ the good fight.

      • Thanks again for a great Blog – We have the same struggles as you have in the USA in getting our political and educational leaders to see the real benefits of music education in effecting positive cultural change – but fortunately we have many very hardworking, passionate and inspirational music educators such as yourself. Also, I am very blessed to work in a great educational system in Western Sydney with great leadership from the top down 😀 Check my latest blog at captivatestrings 🙂

  66. Amen regarding the “makes you better in math and science” argument. In my estimation, arts/music are building skills that will be even more relevant in the 21st century workplace (creativity, teamwork, self-esteem, etc.) http://bizmusician.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/435/

    • Definitely! Creative skills are what employers are looking for lately. I don’t recall my employer asking about my test scores, or even my grades, when I applied for my first job. They DID want to know how I could do my job differently from others (higher level thinking skills).

  67. Great post! So glad it showed up on Fresh Pressed. My daughter is just about to start kindergarten and I wish she was going to have much more music education than the 1/2 hour a week allotted.

  68. Reblogged this on mulled thoughts…and cider and commented:
    I taught piano lessons, and I’d have to agree with every line of this. Except I don’t think you necessarily HAVE to have a degree….I don’t have a music degree but I’ve spent all of my life immersed in playing and performing.

  69. Music Teachers are the best! Some of the people who have been my biggest fans and supporters are my music teachers past and present. And now I’m teaching piano, and I’m getting a little taste of what they go through. Not only do you have to get the students to love what you love, you have to get people to agree that it’s important! And oh my is it ever important! My Dad always said that music is one of the Universal Languages. I think it’s true, and I love the connection music brings. Thanks for saying all this. People need to see how important music and music teachers are!

  70. This is “seriously” hilarious. “Silent car ride” or worse me having to sing

  71. Great job on this post, I think it also applies on teachers who teach other subjects as well, not just music.

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  72. This post was freaking hilarious. Loved it! Even though I’m not a music teacher, I studied arts and culture at school so I can relate to a lot of these things, especially the justifying and explaining part. I hate that so many people think the arts in general are just fun and games which don’t really make use of any knowledge, skills, or smarts. Glad you’re setting the record straight on what really goes down. And congrats on the FP! 🙂

  73. this is very very good..reminds me of the guy who thought he was really good because he taught himself how to play an instrument instead of the ‘idiots’ who did a proper programme in university..he’s not really good btw lol..

  74. “However, unless you have a music degree, don’t pretend like you could do my job” I DO have a music degree and I still couldn’t do your job!

    I have utmost respect for music teachers – good music teachers are kind of special. You have to have a great understanding of music, but also the right people skills to pass that passion and understanding on to others.

    Nice post – Keep up the good work.

      • What Ells said! I double majored in music (flute) and Spanish in college, and by year three, I realized that I just didn’t have it in me to be a good band director, so I put my energy into Spanish instead. (Not that learning and then teaching Spanish language and literature doesn’t have its own challenges…it does! I’m still in awe of my former BME classmates, however, especially around marching or festival season.)

        I admired my band and choir directors so, so much, and they shaped so many of the best parts of who I am as a person. They taught me that “early was on time and on time was late,” to work hard, show up prepared, always bring an extra pencil, and to work or perform with a cool head and a heart on fire. I have never forgotten these lessons. Thank you so much for writing this.

  75. As a music student – agreed! The music department at my school is very different to any other department. Because of playing alongside teachers in ensembles, doing shows together, and going on tour etc, you begin to see the teachers more as friends, and you have in-jokes and things you can talk to them about, as if they were your equals. I like that. Also, people think learning music is easy, too, especially for people who are talented on instruments. Well, I’ve been playing and reading music since about the time I could read, and I still had to revise for GCSE music. *sigh* People just don’t get it.

  76. Music teaching is tricky. It’s hard to make a living doing it.
    And secretly, every music teacher wishes they were making or learning music rather than their students! Being a music teacher focuses on the student being the more important musician.

    • Personally, I find more joy in showing my students how to become better, than I do in becoming better, myself. I’m sure there are many teachers who feel that way, though. It’s definitely about the kids.

  77. Oh, I have such a high regard for music teachers as I’m one of those “musically-challenged” or tone deaf individuals. 🙂 I enjoyed reading your post a lot since I could feel the passion that you have as a teacher oozing between the lines. 🙂

  78. I considered becoming an art teacher after college but realized I wasn’t strong enough to battle it out with admin./parents/etc about the validity of art in school and still be a role model to the kids. Teaching in the arts is certainly not for anyone and I admire anyone in that position! I could never learn how to play guitar, my fingers never worked so I’m also extremely envious of musicians!!!

    • You do take a mental beating, but you have to remember how much it does for the kids. Every time I conduct a concert, I’m reminded that we do something special.

      • I can imagine! I recently worked with some inner city 6th graders on a printmaking class and hearing them all scream and shout in joy as their prints came up during the presentation made me smile ear to ear!! I’ve been on the look out for more music related volunteer chances too 🙂

  79. Awesome post! I’m a teacher, but not a music teacher. For the past two years my daughter has had the most AMAZING music teacher I have ever seen, and not only did I thank him profusely, but I wrote a letter to the Board of Ed. about him too. A good music teacher creates magic and teaches kids to love it. You sound like one of them. Keep up the good work, and kudos! 🙂

    • Speaking for your daughter’s teacher, thank you for defending the arts! You know as a teacher that the Board will listen to parents much more than to a teacher.

      • Exactly! I am happy to say that I received a nice letter back from the Superintendent thanking me and saying she would share it with the Board members, Principal, and teacher. I am thrilled that my daughter has a love of music now…especially since I don’t have a shred of musical background myself! All my elementary school had growing up for us to play was triangles, bongos, and maracas. Sad but true.

  80. SO true!!! I worked as a piano teacher for a few months before going to college, and it is nowhere near as easy as people think it is! Teaching music is really a special skill. It’s also one of the more rewarding thing’s I’ve done. Looking forward to the next post!

  81. I love how you brought up art as a civilization measure. Freaking true! Too bad there’s just so many people that don’t get anything, it sometimes seems worthless to keep defending and explaining another point of view…

  82. Future Music educator over here… and I LOVE IT! These are the things they don’t teach you in college! Thank you for being an inspiration and reminding me why I am doing this 🙂

    • There is much more than this that they don’t teach, but don’t let that discourage you. Good luck with your future teaching career. Oh, and there’s light at the end of the music major tunnel. You’ll make it.

  83. I’ve been a public school music teacher for 22 years. Thanks for saying what so many of us want to say, and in a respectful way. If we said it as many times as we need to, we wouldn’t have the voice to teach class!

  84. Great article! I studied music in college and I would never try to disparage a music teacher, I know I couldn’t do it.

  85. lifeofministermom

    I can totally relate! Prior to deciding to stay home with my 4 month old I taught P.E., and oh hope the stereotypes abound. ” I’ve never met a P.E. teacher that looked like YOU. ” ” So do you just stand out there and watch the kids play kickball?” The list goes on, the defending is continuous, but the students are soooo worth it! I hope that one day a story will be told about how my P.E. or Music teacher changed my life and the old saying ” Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach P.E.” will soon be forgotten!

  86. nazarioartpainting

    Great post.

  87. Great post. As a long time member of the “Parents of Performing Students” group at our local High School and a Choir mom I couldn’t agree more! I’m going to share you post with our group as soon as I hit “post comment.” cheers, Rita

  88. Great article, but the pic of the chick pretending to play guitar makes me want to throw things. You’re posting an article about music awareness with a picture showing someone FAKING to play guitar with 1/2″ acrylic tips on. She couldn’t clamp a chord down without popping off fingernails left and right!

  89. It’s so sad when people think arts are superfluous. After graduation, perhaps more than any subject, the arts are what continue to surround people.

  90. Thanks so much for this post. My son (14) plays the trombone and sometimes it’s hard to see him struggle with this challenging instrument. But he has a GREAT music teacher and an equally great tutor, who share their love for music with him. It is such a kick, after hearing him practice his trombone part night after night, to listen to the entire orchestra play.

  91. We’re soul sisters!!!!! I have taught middle school chorus for 13 years. I was a piano major in college but love teaching choir. WE ARE A CORE SUBJECT!!!!!! I want to scream that from the top of my lungs every day! If everyone else was incorporating the arts in what they do, those test scores they care so much about would sky rocket!! I am so glad you were “freshly pressed ” today 🙂 I loved (and agreed with) every word. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

  92. AMEN, Sister! Wife could write an entire post about “What Every Singer Wants You To Know”. In fact, after reading this, maybe she will.
    Kudos for being Fresh Pressed – Cheers from Utah.

  93. To your point, these are the same frustrations my husband (who teaches Special Ed.) has. Though you probably worry more that your job could be cut as something “extracurricular.” I hope not. As someone who loved music in school and played a flute for twelve years, I so appreciate the chance I had to learn and appreciate music at school. I want the same for my children. We need music teachers!

  94. I am also a music teacher–middle school orch–and I love this post. Thanks for typing up what we are all thinking! 🙂

  95. This was an excellent post! I’m a language arts teacher, however, as a student I ADORED music class! I was in choir throughout high school and was even in the highest singing group, Madrigals. I have nothing but respect for what music teachers do. Teaching music is NOT easy!! My choir teacher was amazing and was my favorite high school teacher. She was so talented. I can understand your frustrations because where I work, I often hear comments about how music is an easy subject and how does one get that job and all that nonsense. It’s not easy doing what you do but I can tell you that your kids will always love and appreciate you, just like I will never forgot my teacher. God Bless!

  96. You are entirely correct.
    #2 – That is exactly why I have never pursued a degree in music education. In band for seven years playing flute, I had no desire to defect to the brass section and learn the tuba. (Nothing against brass musicians, but it isn’t for me.)

    #4 – From a student’s perspective, we all decided that argument was entirely irrelevant. Research may prove it to be true, but our grades never changed unless we studied ’til our eyes fell out.

    #6 – My music teachers were pivotal to my education, band directors especially. My senior year, our head director left the school, and when a new director was hired the band fell apart. Our band truly was a family, whether we liked it or not, and the change in leadership left us stranded.

    A teacher should not be judged by her content area, but by her ability to provide her students with an opportunity to learn and grow into a more confident and educated citizen. I know by your passion you are a wonderful teacher!

  97. Loved this!!!!!!!! My kids’ school music teachers are the backbone of the school, and work so hard. I’m giving you the slow and meaningful clap of approval, in 4/4 time.

  98. Well played. Music should also fall under the Language Arts category.

  99. This was a great post. Please, though, for the love of God give shutterstock a rest. It makes the whole thing seem cheap and hastily thrown together. Not every paragraph needs to be punctuated with a stock photo.

  100. ““Are you a real teacher or just a music teacher?” This is like people who ask what I do and I say I’m an artist and I create. Then they say, “yes, but what do you do?

  101. I’m not a music teacher, but I do have a degree in music. I work in the business world as a director of marketing for a corporation on wall st. as my day job and it frustrates me to know end how little musicians are respected. I cope with this by shortening my degree title to just music on my resume and never ever talking about it at work. (Even though I spend a majority of my time outside of work rehearsing, writing and performing)

    One time somebody said “Hey, what did you study in college?” I replied “Music” and the guy said “OH MY GOD! YOU WERE A SLOUCH IN COLLEGE!?” with a smile on his face of course, but I immediately snapped back at him out of insecurity “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a degree in classical music theory/performance?” Honestly I almost ate him. I was anything but a slouch in college and I saw the kind of slouches the business program produced.

    My resume is thick with awesome business experience, yet when looking for a job a friend of mine sent my resume to a colleague of his at Disney. The email came back from his friend forwarded to me, the first line said “Musicians really do know how to be unemployed don’t they!” (My degree being the only thing that said music on it on the entire resume.)

    I wish people respected the arts more. I would always hire a musician with business experience because I know from experience that they are probably way more creative and intelligent than an average person.

  102. As a fellow music teacher, THANK YOU! I could not agree more with everything you said! I once had a conversation in my faculty lounge talking about how something was going to impact the students in music and art and another teacher said, “Not to mention in important subjects.” It took all of my self control not to start a major argument with her. I’d say it’s comforting to know that other music teachers have the same issues, but it’s not comforting at all. It’s extremely sad.

  103. I loved, loved, loved my high school music teacher. He was a little off, but he looked like Alice Cooper and fucking rocked. Everyone with a soul was so upset when he was fired/let go/quit. The school was/is going through some extreme cut backs so of course the first thing to go was the music program. They were going to cut his hours in half and it just wasn’t worth it to him so he quit…It sucked

  104. I studied music composition because my step-mom is a teacher- considered education but decided I would be confounded by work-place politics.
    Anyhow, Great Post!
    To the point about music being superfluous in academia, that of course is a horrible thing to consider but, looking back, I can’t help but think my music studies before college could have been better integrated with the rest of school- maybe studying “Oliver Cromwell” and its relationship to British history, hearing Copeland’s settings of Emily Dickinson’s poems, “My End is My Beginning” -Machaut for geometry to show musical symmetry.

    • Interesting thought. I do try to connect my general music classes to other subject areas by including poetry, artwork, math, and science concepts. As far as incorporating that into a performance-based class, there isn’t enough time, unfortunately. It would be great if tested subject areas would incorporate music to make our job easier.

  105. Cheers to you and all you do. I lacked much athletic ability in school, and my musical interest saved my life. It allowed me to excel amongst my peers – an entirely new experience for me. I owe so much to my 6th grade music tracher who convinced me not to give up when I was transitioning from the snare drum to the trap set. Singing also built my esteem when I had to prepare for state contests. Anyway, thanks for your post. You are appreciated!

  106. Loved this. My colleagues and I at The Dallas School of Music (and dlpmusicprogram.com) were so fed up with justifying what we do (your #3) that we decided to see if music education could stand alone in our community, on its own, outside of academia. That was 20 years ago and we’re still going strong. Though it has not been without struggle (what sector hasn’t struggled over the past few years?) it is rewarding to know that the demand and interest for music making in adults can sustain a music ed business. We don’t sell instruments, sheet music, or CD’s – we sell music education. To that end, we developed our Kore and Jazz series online so that we could share what we do here on campus at DSM with other teachers and learners from around the world. I encourage your readers to check it out and let us know what you think – it’s free and fun and if you have a fledgling program, your students can access our resources online to help them ‘catch up’ or to simply have different material to play as time allows. So what do WE want everyone to know? That music can and should be an integral part every school curriculum (duh) AND that quality music education/making opportunities should NOT stop after high school. The entire profession has much to gain by increasing the life-span of music enthusiasts.

  107. Great post! Certainly we deal with these problems at the Victoria Conservatory of Music but the joy and fulfillment teaching music brings fuels everyone here to remain committed, passionate educators! Reblogged at http://vcm.bc.ca/category/blog/

  108. Perfectly said. Bravo! I had no idea you were a music teacher when we were chatting about piano. Well, now. I guess you really would clap slowly for my performance! ha! I can’t imagine a day without music. In college I also sang in the choir. Singing is more important to me than
    the piano. I’ve sung in a choir most of my school years, absolutely loved every minute. I can’t imagine growing up without that outlet.

  109. I couldn’t agree more. I took music classes up until high school and I thought it was hard! Let’s just say, I didn’t excel in music. It’s definitely not an easy subject. I think people who work in music, play music, and teach music are extremely talented! I praise you for sticking up for yourself.

  110. I can relate to this post… I like your Honesty… I am not a music teacher… but a Special Education teacher… though we have different areas of specialties… I am also ask the same question… ARE U TEACHING? or just Doing nothing… grrrrrrrrrrr

  111. Hey I didn’t even know you got FP’d until I saw your post explaining this ain’t no teachin’ blog. Congratulations! I loved this blog for awhile so I’m glad you’re getting some gold stars from WordPress. And I totally get the music teacher rage. As a school librarian, I’m always having to justify my existence. I’ve had to answer the “now are you a teacher too or just a dumb book jockey that does nothing but shhhh people?”

  112. microcheesehead

    I remember my time back in school in the concert band, marching band, district band, jazz band, and learning a few other instruments along the way. Music teachers have a tough job. And I don’t envy the stresses that they have to deal with every day from ignorant students and jackass administrators. You are appreciated and to all of you other music teachers that are out there thank you.

  113. Definitely NOT one of your co-workers!

    Hey… why’d it take me approximately four thousand and seventy-leven minutes to scroll down to the bottom of your comments?! HOLY FOLLOWING, BATMAN!

    I don’t have anything to say about your blog post… ’cause I have already said them elsewhere, but I do want your Twitter handle. EMAIL A BROTHA’!


  114. Looking back over my teachers from elementary school, high school, and even university because I can take it as an elective with my English degree, some of favourite teachers have been music teachers – so you keep up the good work, we love you guys! 🙂

  115. gdanielkunkel

    As a musician I completely agree with you!

  116. Great read – having once been an instrumental music teacher myself I know exactly where you’re coming from!

  117. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog – words cannot express how much I love this post. I’m not a music teacher (although I would like to be someday), but have suffered my fair share of people raising their eyebrows at me and stifling their laughter when they discover I have studied music for many years and how much I love it. Throughout my years at school my music teachers commanded little to no respect from many of my peers which is sickening. I wish people would respect, if not understand, that music teachers have it as tough as say, maths or science teachers. Thanks so much for this post; it really served as a reminder that there are others out there who are of similar minds.

  118. It’s true! I was in college for audio production, and all of this is totally, 100% true :D.

  119. Nice post. My music teachers, both private tutors and actual, school music teachers, were some of the most influential people in my life. Although I never pursued music professionally, what they gave me has been invaluable. Not because it made me better at math, or made me think in a certain way. But because I learned a little about the world around me, and can appreciate it more. I know my children will have a piano right next to our bookcase, because I see both as equally important to intellectual development.

  120. You are right on! I have been a music teacher for 28 years and have experienced everything you mentioned. I especially liked your photo comments. I am forwarding this to my fine arts coordinator so he can blast our fine arts staff with it. Thanks! Now I’m ready to go back to my “fluff” job. 😉 I hate it when the teachers say “have fun!” when they drop off their classes- WHAT? FUN? I wanna say Hey BIMBO, they are actually gong to LEARN something. I’m not here just to cover YOUR prep!!! (We really know that they DO have fun when they are learning! Evil laughter…)

    • Thank you so much for forwarding this! Nothing makes me madder than when teachers say stuff like “have fun.” It is beyond condescending.

    • Debbie, I’m feelin ya! That is also a pet peeve of mine…”have fun” or “sing pretty”…we do a little bit more than just sit around singing cute little songs all day! And no, I can’t teach your class to sing this song for you…can you teach them to read this music text for me? Oh, you have other things you need to teach them to read? Oh, well guess what ding dong?

  121. Thank you for stopping by and the following 🙂

  122. I’m an elementary pe teacher…so much of this relates to pe also. Thank you for writing this; I couldn’t agree with you more. With my job….with the rate of obesity in the US and people still ask why we “have to” have “gym”…………grrr.

  123. Yep. I’m pretty tired of having to try and justify why music is important. I tell people that it’s like “cross-training” for languages. I tell people that it helps with math. But at the end of the day, it should be important on its own.

  124. In my opinion there is no more courageous teacher than a sixth grade band teacher who has spent years training and refining her art to become qualified to listen to a room full of kids with their first instruments. God bless you.

  125. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing, nice written and come with almost all important infos. I would like to see extra posts like this .

  126. Thanks for posting this! I’m a music teacher in NY and I lost my job last year. Our district cut 20% of our department (in very backhanded ways), despite us fighting with all our might to keep/justify our positions… and what you said about cuts affecting students is absolutely true! I think about my kids every day and hoping they are getting the education they deserve! (Yes, I call them my kids… it certainly felt that way!) You are absolutely right with every point you made… you rock!! 🙂

  127. Hello, Facetious Firecracker! Love your blog. I was never a great musician myself, but I absolutely love music and over the years I have sung with two choirs and appeared in musical productions both in school and at university. I had a wonderful music teacher at secondary school; she encouraged people in the right way and although she was not someone you should cross, produced fantastic results. She was a very special person and I can’t stand the thought that people such as her are last on the PTA’s list. Music is a complex and very special art and I think a lot of you for encouraging people to like it.

  128. I really didn’t know how true this was until I started playing music at age 49.
    Creating art is a part of our soul! A big part of who we are.
    I really regret not discovering guitar or piano when I was a youth. I love them both now. And people wonder why I am doing it 😦 We need to re-program ourselves in regard to the arts.

  129. “Unless you have had to be tested on everything from music history, educational psychology, your performance of a concerto for an audience of highly trained professionals, memorization of fingerings for the bassoon (and every other instrument), etc., don’t tell me you could do my job.”


    As to today’s “music” … it’s a complex issue, and it’s rooted in humanity’s penchant for sin, which is, alas, more prevalent than its penchant for anything else … especially art and beauty. I don’t expect it will get any better.

  130. I am SO sharing this! Thank you so very much! Every single thing you said is exactly right. i teach elementary school music and could relate to each and every point!

  131. This was so spot on!!!! I think too that with this subject area it is unique in that we focus on accessing the individual as well as the group.. If one student doesn’t understand a concept in math, the rest of the class does not suffer for it. With music, especially with musical ensembles every member’s musical understanding brings something to the group…As a middle school band teacher, I use the quote “No One Sits The Bench In Band” There is just do much more to music than people think. I could go on and on..but for the sake of your excellent blog, I will step off my soapbox and behave. 🙂

  132. I love this article! So true on every point. I teach middle school orchestra and people have actually said “It only has four strings, how hard can it be?” Grr..

  133. Every single point you make has been made for as long as I’ve been teaching, which is 32 years….and every one of them are square on the money. Believe me, I’ve heard all these and more, and it is very frustrating justifying your career all the time, especially with your school administrations….where while some will support you and others have to actually see you before they think about you or your program; I’ve had both. You have to keep the faith, and patiently explain things without creating a non-supporter, but it’s hard! Sometimes it helps to mentally slap the side of their heads (in your head).

  134. Richard Ballbag

    Most high school band directors turn out to be homosexual and/or child molesters.

    • Richard Ballbag

      It’s true. When I was in my high school’s marching band my teacher convinced me to learn the flute (obviously trying to lead me towards the homosexual lifestyle) and then over the months he slowly coaxed me into engaging in various sexual activities, most of them involving anal penetration.

      One afternoon the following year, I was systematically raped by the entire marching band. They all finished inside of me and I now suffer from what is known as a floating liver syndrome. The mass semen exposure has seriously affected my day to day life on an emotional level and I often cry myself to sleep while sucking my thumb and masturbating feveriously.

  135. I am an elementary and middle school music teacher. I agree 100% with all your points. Bravo.

  136. Whoa….where’d that come from? Not exactly staying on topic, are we?

  137. Know this that every soul is free,
    To choose his life and what he’ll be.
    For this eternal truth is given,
    God will force no man to heaven.

    He’ll call persuade direct aright,
    Bless with wisdom love and light.
    In nameless ways be good and kind,
    But never force the human mind.

    Think we that we’re more wise than He,
    That we can choose what men will be?
    Can we suppose to force the mind,
    With words like, “No Child Left Behind?”

  138. Great post! If you know anyone who is in the position of having to defend their program to hopefully avoid budget cuts, please let them know about the resources we have for those situations: http://www.vpa.niu.edu/cvpa/arts_advocacy/index.shtml

  139. Great post! As a music therapist I can 100% relate to this – however, in some ways very different. Imagine trying to explain to a person that hiring a music teacher for a music therapist’s job is like hiring a phys ed teacher to do a physical therapist’s job. Its a tough world we musicians live in! Best of luck 🙂

  140. As a 30 year retired elementary school teacher who has been teaching art for the last 8 years (paid for by our parent group), let me thank you for all you do. Music and art should be a part of all children’s experiences.

  141. Misplaced Texan

    This article brought back memories of my Theater Teacher having to fight for every dime for our classes and productions. What we couldn’t pay for, we begged borrowed and borrowed and returned without permission. I have a very close friend who is a music teacher. On visits to our shared hometown where he taught, we had to get together late at night because a music teacher’s day does not end when the last bell rings. Performances to be planned, auditions, rehearsal, private lessons, begging for money from the school board. But he never complained because he loved teaching and his students just as he does now, 25 years later. Your article could apply to all the Arts in public school. Thank you for writing this. To borrow and butcher a line from “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, after the school district cut all Arts in the school because the money went to sports, math, languages, English, etc, Mr. Holland asked, “What are students going to write about if there is nothing to inspire them? That is what the Arts do for all students.”

  142. Kudos to the author……I am a Music Teacher (in a previous life) that longs very badly to go back. Enjoy what you have, it’s the best career on Earth.

  143. Reblogged this on kayliewilson and commented:
    Some interesting points to keep in mind.

  144. Stumbled on this through pinterest, and I completely agree with you! I am an orchestra teacher and have to deal with this constantly. Glad to see I am not the only one!

  145. I agree with all of this. It is unfortunate that, in today’s public education system, we are all but required to justify our positions partly because of #4. Bureaucrats who know nothing about teaching, make policies that are affecting one focus. That is to raise the standardized test scores. If a school is failing, the sobering truth is that they will cut the arts if they have to to meet their core curriculum goals. As usual, their approach is bass-ackwards. Ask them to acknowledge that band, orchestra, and choir is important in and of itself? Maybe there are some public education systems that feel that way. But that philosophy is only accepted and implemented in the top 5% of our best school in America. I am blessed. I work in an inner city school where the principals recognize the value of the arts. I am fortunate and blessed.

  146. I entered my Music Ed program with over a hundred of us in my class…only three of us completed the program. What we do is NOT for the weak, but for those whose love and zeal outweigh the work it takes to make it.

  147. After settling in my first couple of months as a middle school music teacher, even though I love my school and students, I’ve begun to see my world without the rose colored glasses. There are teachers who will try to bully you for pulling students out of class for a whopping one combined rehearsal for fear of “not staying on target for April’s testing”. And while I’m happy reports of how much my students enjoy my classes are getting out around the school, it’d be nice to have chorus recognized as a course and a place to grow educationally, not just a place to sing songs. I am very privileged to have a job, let alone in a district that overall does support the arts, but it’s nice to know on those hard days that we are in this together. And by the way, your comments are hilarious. Please tell me you’re like that in the classroom!

  148. Reblogged this on Tuesday Music and commented:
    This is a reblog of an article which will become more and more relevant the longer you teach. Enjoy! :0)

  149. I found and re-shared this on Facebook. I could gush about this post for paragraphs with anecdotal praise, but I’ll just sum it all up with:

    AMEN and AMEN!!! Thank you for saying so fluently and succinctly what NEEDED to be said!

  150. I was at a professional developement where the arts integration coordinator had no clue what music teachers do. She proceeded to give us a session where she said “any classroom teacher can teach music using arts integration.” We were livid at that comment, but tried to cut her some slack due to her ignorance. Now the text book series are another story. If you dive into the teachers manuals of some series you will see how they dummied it down for a non music teacher. In lots of states you don’t need a music ed degree to teach K-5/6 General Music. You only need a teaching degree. The concepts are spoon fed to the kids with highlighting them in the music, definitions given and no reason for the students to experience the concept before naming it. These books are insulting to a teacher who knows how children learn music. My “Kodaly” is coming through, sorry.

    • I had a sixth grade class that argued with me last week that any adult was qualified to teach music. I was also livid.

      • I’ve had more problems with adults than kids,because I would play classical pieces on piano for them & also demonstrate proper vocal technique when teaching them & no other staff member could do that but me. I also made sure the kids knew that music is something you have to be able to DO & not just talk about what you read in a book.You can’t learn to sing properly or play an instrument expressively from just reading a book. One of the 6th grade teachers, a bossy type who was the same way to the other faculty decided she knew enough music to conduct the kids in their 6th grade grad music. I kept telling her to back off because she had no sense of rhythm,phrasing,etc & they were doing an upbeat syncopated piece with a rock beat & I was having the kids step side to side gospel choir style on my cue.She was trying to undermine my credibility with the kids. I told the kids to watch me no matter what because I am the music teacher & she couldn’t do it right. Many had noticed that anyway. On graduation day I was conducting from the balcony so all the kids on stage could see me. Miss Bossy was downstairs with the staff & when it was time for the kids to sing that song she suddenly stood up & tried to cue them in & conduct. EPIC FAIL ! There were five 6th grade classes ( at least 150 kids) & about 4 of them watched me, but her class & the rest watched her & the result was catastrophic. The kids following her came in wrong & were completely off the beat, didn’t know which direction to step ,got nervous,forgot words,moved at odds with each other ,looked around & the over all effect was chaos except for the group watching me. Parents near me were wondering what “that crazy woman down there” was trying to do. Parents using video cameras were upset. I just kept quiet & let KARMA take over. Ms Bossy stayed in her seat for the rest of the kids’ songs & never interfered with me again !!

  151. SarahGotTheBeat

    I am in my second semester of college majoring in Music Education and this post gives me chills! A lot of my high school teachers were in awe that I was so passionate that I was going to start studying a potentially dying field. Being a music major is freaking hard but so extremely rewarding when you look back on the things you could barely do in the very beginning (writing out modes for example). Thank you for this awesome post!

  152. Boy did you just sum up my thoughts. This music teacher can relate!

  153. Benita M. Eldridge

    I just saw this via Pinterest! I couldn’t have said it better! You rock! I love the photos too.

  154. I totally AGREE with everything here,esp the part about others thinking they can do what I do. A few years ago there was a bossy grade teacher who thought she could conduct the songs for our elementary school graduation( 150 kids total). NO WAY ! The music was very syncopated & she had no sense of rhythm & timing at all & would just wave her arms with no relationship to phrasing or rhythm. I told her to stop & she claimed she was “helping me”. I told her I’m a professional,didn’t need her help & her conducting was way off.. This was a problem because a lot of kids think of classroom teachers as the “real teachers” & will follow their lead even if it’s over a cliff. Anyhow I got the kids well trained in how to sing, move to the music & come in on time. Well,KARMA took over as I knew it would. At the graduation ceremony I had to conduct from the balcony so all the kids could see me.Ms Bossy was downstairs on the floor. When the music started she got up to “conduct” & caused a train wreck! Half the kids followed me,came in right & moved correctly; the rest watched her, came in wrong, moved wrong, didn’t know what to do,panicked & threw some of the others off . HORRIBLE. The effect was that of 150 ten pins hit by 2 bowling balls & not knowing which way to fall. Parents complained about “that woman downstairs” who messed things up on their videos. ROFL !! Needless to say ,from then on she stayed out of my way in all music matters

  155. i found this on Google and it really helped me on a project for school. thanks a lot 🙂 im in middle school and i want to be a music and theater teacher when i grow up and my music teacher inspired me so this really helped alot considering your a music teacher. thanks again!

  156. I am so glad I found this post! As a music teacher, I agree with all of it and especially #3 The consistent fight to prove what we do and to keep our programs gets wearing. But it’s all worth it!

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    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together.

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  160. I’ve been teaching music (HS, MS & Elem) in public schools for 16 years, my husband has been a HS & MS band director for 26 years (about to retire!) & we completely & totally agree!!! Very well said!!

  161. Former music teacher

    I remember sitting in a workshop that introduced “rubrics”. I sat there thinking “they are paying some guy to say he just came up with this cool way to measure kids progress in your class. Really? You came up with this?” During a break I went back to my classroom and got a set of our marching band judges sheets. I took them over and showed him the backs of the sheets. He looked at me all surprised and asked “where did you get these?” My answer was that we had been using these “rubrics” on marching band and drum corps judging sheets for over 20 years. His jaw dropped. We are always ahead of the curve in education. Had the same type of experience on a “performance based outcomes” in service. Judge the kids on their mastery of the material with a final performance event? Who would have ever thought of that? It is portent what we do.

    As I’ve seen applied in other things-
    If you already understand, no explaination is needed. If you don’t understand, no explaination is possible.

  162. I’m a retired music teacher as of last June. I was a very successful music teacher. I arose from entry level general music teacher to chairman of the music department. i have taught every level and every area of music from vocal to instrumental K-12.
    My thoughts after 37 years is to consolidate the music programs in your school districts.
    Give music to those who have music. To those students whom will learn to appreciate music, which is everyone, every student, give them music appreciation. That could be an assembly program every month. it could be a class in a specific instrument. i.e guitar class, keyboard class etc. However, i have taught too many classes in general music that were a total waste of time and talent. With music, as with all the arts, you either have it or you don’s. I don’t mend to exclude any student, however emphasis should be places on students who wish to go on. Students that select music because they want it. There is so much more we could do with kids that have musical talent than “General Music”. General Music should be concentrated on sight reading, keyboard and guitar. The students in these classes will have a structured and disciplined and aggressive class in music. The goal should be students in these classes will have a high level of competence in music. They will perform on the guitar and the keyboard. they will sing music on sight. They will perform music at or beyond grade level. Every other child in the school district will be involved in a similar artistic educational program i.e theater, dance, visual art etc. Keep sets education concentrated to our artistic kids, Assemblies in the arts will inspire all, ALL students to get involved at the level they want to be involved. Consolidate your Arts Program in your district, This =may mean to expand beyond just music and art. install an assembly program with a monthly program in the arts i.e Dance, Theater, Music, Art. Don’t waste time with kids sitting in an “General Music Class” going through the motions.” Use your artistic teacher to teach what they know. anything else is bullshit. they only,ONLY reason we don’t have consolidated programs is because of money and corrupt administrators. i have worked under them for 37 years, they are the ones to target for elimination, not the talented or artistic. Get those people out of education, you’ll find that they aren’t interested in education at all. They are interested in having a 200K administrative job with benefits and expensive accounts, not kids. My ideas are for kids, and they don’t exclude, they are inclusive and direct students to use their strengths. They are for teachers doing what they do best and being the examples from which children learn.

  163. Ilona Earheart

    Having had wonderful music teachers in grade school and high school, I’ll always agree that music is a part of any well-rounded education.

    While doing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, though, I tutored and taught many music education majors, and I think a part of the problem is that there are (unfortunately) music teachers out there who do not know their subject well enough. In college they struggled through theory and scraped by in ear training/aural skills and gave recitals like nails on a chalkboard, and consequently, they’re unable to effectively teach. I was APPALLED at the poor knowledge of some of the music ed majors who graduated with me. You wouldn’t flunk algebra and then become a math teacher, would you?

    So I guess my little caveat is – yes, by all means, I like music teachers. But I like GOOD music teachers. Poor ones do a disservice to the art. If you are going to teach music, teach it well. There really aren’t a lot of music teaching jobs. There certainly aren’t enough for bad teachers. Don’t expect blind adoration for the subject you teach – earn it by teaching it well and thoroughly.

  164. Unfortunately, the school I taught at (I’m now retired) didn’t really see music teachers as “real” teachers or Music as anything other than play time or “down time” for the students. The ID tags we wore had the word Music under one’s name if you were a member of the Music Department. All other subject areas said Teacher under the teacher’s name. This was (still is) blatant discrimination and an obvious bias. I’m glad to be out of there.

  165. Juanita Crawford

    As a retired music educator…you are “spot on”. All subjects in school are included in a music curriculum…history, geography, math, reading, etc. Now that I’m retired I have the pleasure of watching former students pursue the same career path that I did…and one is a haldentenor who sings Wagner and has sung at the Met and is based in Austria. Amazing. Keep on Keeping on!!!

  166. #3 I’ve learned to not worry about my survival because teaching is just one of the the almost infinite things musicians can do. However, like you, I am very concerned about what will happen to society as a whole if (proper) arts education continue to be placed in the backseat because for me (real) education is unimaginable without the arts. So, I think the education ministers are the ones who should be more concerned if music and the arts were dropped from the curriculum altogether. Thanks for your blog entry.

  167. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. After 30+ years, I’ve heard all of this plus two: “Oh, can’t they just sing a few songs about (enter subject here) at our assembly next week?” And “Music classes are always supposed to be fun! Why can’t they sing more modern songs?”

  168. I am not a music teacher but wish I had the talent to be one! My world is half music with the other half comprised of everything else. I have music on at all times–whether I’m working and have the radio on, listening to one of the 25 or so CDs I keep in my car at all times for my drives anywhere, taking a shower or cleaning the house. It doesn’t matter-music of some sort is always on. I just took up the violin (always wanted to!) at age 51 and I am so grateful for the patience of my music teacher! I think she realizes that older brains take longer to retain info but she is patient and knows I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS AS WELL AS I CAN POSSIBLY DO! I will never play to her level because I won’t be around that long but I’m still having a BALL playing what I can! She encourages me each lesson so I AM actually better by the next time we meet therefore, I’m accomplishing a goal. Our society hasn’t given the credit rightfully due to our music teachers! We have, for the most part, forgotten the practical use of algebra–but music–it’s all around us to be appreciated and shared!

  169. Woohoo 🙂 This fellow music teacher thanks you :)!

  170. Matthew Gunderson

    Excellent blog post!
    I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my music teachers from middle school through my Master’s degree.

    Keep on teaching. Someday one of your students will carry on your traditions.

  171. Cuppy Cake Laura

    Reblogged this on Floating Fast and commented:
    First time re-blogging a post. This is fantastic.

  172. I am SO thankful for the amazing music teacher my daughter has been lucky enough to have in the last several years. They have inspired her in a way few others can, and music has become so much a part of who she is, that I can’t even imagine who my child might be without having had these people in her life.

  173. I am a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and am studying music education. I LOVE this!!! I have wanted to teach music since I was 7 and this is everything I’ve felt about my future profession! Thank you very much for posting this! I will be sharing it with my classmates!!! 🙂

    • Matthew Gunderson

      UWM!! Woot woot! Graduated there in 2006 with my Master’s in Clarinet Performance.
      Keep up the good work, Jennifer.

  174. You ought to move to Texas. We love our music teachers! In fact, the music teachers are typically the best teachers in the school. I am especially grateful for the middle school band directors and choir directors who have changed my children’s lives and made it possible for them to feel good about going to school every day. And the idea that you all aren’t hard working? Our high school band directors arrive and start teaching before school starts, spend hours working on the marching program when they aren’t teaching students, keep the band hall open during lunch so that students can practice (which means they have to take their lunch in the band hall), and stay long hours after school–often going home long after dark.

    Through it all they not only teach music, but how to treat people with respect and how to behave in a professional manner. They teach discipline and excellence.

    Similarly, our high school choir director teaches music, yes, but also teaches the kids to be actively giving service in the community. I can never thank these teachers enough for the lifelong talents they have given to my children, nor can I thank them enough for the lifelong lessons of respect, discipline, and work ethic they’ve provided.

    • Yes, Texas does love their music teachers, but sadly there are a ton of school administrators here that have nothing but football on their brain so that’s where a large part of the high school’s extra-curricular budget goes during football season (based on what I saw as a high-school percussionist for 4 years and a former high school band director personal story about the school district’s superintendent). On a lighter note, I have had the pleasure of being under the direction of more than one excellent music teacher since middle school and also unfortunately had a fair share of bad ones as well. The good ones recognize their students talents and push them to grow not only as musicians but as well rounded and balanced individuals. I know that if it hadn’t been for 2 of the most excellent band directors I had during my freshman year in high school, I wouldn’t have the letter jacket full of medals (solo & ensemble contests at region and state levels) and patches from all the marching contests we won as a result of their constant pushing for excellence and teaching us all to never “settle on just good enough”. There aren’t enough thank you’s in the world to express my gratitude for those 2 wonderful music teachers, because without them I would not have become the person I am today!!!!

  175. Bravo! I am so glad that someone finally put it into words. As a trained musician and the wife of a music teacher, I have watched my husband struggle with people not treating him as a real teacher, not putting music in the same category as Math or English and fighting to keep his job. I think this article should be required reading for…well, everyone! Thank you!

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  177. I totally agree with everything this blog. I LOVE IT , LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  178. Excellent blog. Really connected with what you have to say!

  179. I’m a sophomore at my high school. My parents always told me that I would be some great doctor and I thought so too. It was around the fourth grade when we all picked up our instruments and I picked the violin. In the beginning, I was always in the back of the orchestra and I didn’t mind. Around the sixth grade I began to look up other violinists and I began to aspire to be the best in my grade. As a result of endless hours of practicing, I’ve managed to be first chair for about three years. My orchestra teachers have made a huge impact in my life and I’ve recently decided that being a music teacher is exactly what I want to be. My parents are against it because they believe in the same things that you wrote here. My mom’s favorite is “do you really think you’re going to find a job.” I mean I understand it’s tough, especially for this kind of position, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be something that will truly make me happy. My dad told me that I won’t be happy with this kind of profession because he said that I would be teaching others to be great at their instrument and the second they leave, they’ll forget who taught them. I know for a fact that I will never forget my teachers. They’ve become as close as family to me. Wow this is a lot. I kinda was just compelled to comment because this is the same battle I’ve been fighting with my parents recently. I won’t give up and it’s stuff like this that just makes me want to get the point across.

    • I hope you see this. My mom told me I would be a terrible teacher and that I lack patience. Of course, I did it anyway and I feel successful. She has even told me recently that my students must not understand anything I teach. Let their comments roll off your back. Good luck!

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  181. My Jr High and high school choir teachers were by far the most influential teachers I had during those years. I can’t really even remember most of the teachers I had, but those 2 I do, and think of often. As one who struggled to find any kind of talent, my choir teachers encouraged and taught and inspired me, and singing was the one thing I felt I was good at during the awkward years of Jr High and high school. Music took root in my heart, and a good portion of why that happened was because of my awesome music teachers. So, there are those of us who do recognize the tremendous value music teachers have in the lives of those they teach.

  182. Does NCLB really define music as a core subject? I find that a bit questionable. I believe the act encourages states to develop their own definitions of the arts. Thoughts?

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  185. Love this! As a fellow music teacher, I share these same views. I also shared it on Facebook! 🙂

  186. I have been playing classical guitar for two years now. I came into the program at school and had played rock guitar all of my life. From the two years, I have learned everything from Giuliani, Breschianello, Tarregga, and Bach. The only problem I have with musical instructors is that they want you to incorporate THEIR interpretation of the pieces. What about MY interpretation? MUSIC IS SUBJECTIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t claim to know everything, I just have an opinion. When it is not recognized and the instructor wants to be so objective, I highly disagree with their pedagogy.

  187. Another point, Bach would not be nearly as influential as he is if he did everything his teachers told him to do. Didn’t he walk a very long way just to see Buxtehude play, against his teachers wishes? One cannot just bark, sit, stay, and roll over for a treat. You have to take the treat.

  188. Hey, classroom teachers, my Music Education degree cost just as much as your teaching degree. My salary is the same as yours. I can teach 2 classes at one time, when necessary I can teach a class of 80 students at once.my subject area can cause children to have perfect attendance in high school. My subject areas can drawhundreds of people to the school building where parents can see their students performing at a plus level because only near perfect work is accepted from them.

  189. I played alto sax in middle school. My sister also played the same instrument in middle school and she had the same teacher. Now my nephew is playing the same sax in middle school but his teacher makes the students hold it between their legs while seated. It is meant to be played with the bell off to the right. It is not good for the right wrist to play seated with it between the legs. Bad habits from bad teaching can be hard to correct. How can a concerned parent get the teacher to teach the proper playing position?

  190. Lol this is kinda unrelated but anyways.
    I THINK MY drumming TEACHER IS SECRETLY TIRED OF MY SH*T, like he doesn’t even tell me what I’m doing is wrong and even I know it. HE KEEPS SAYING “GOOD WORK” EVEN WHEN I’M DOING TERRIBLE. it’s actually freaking me out.
    I’ve been working in one piece of music for months….

  191. Great writing! I wish other teachers could feel the thrill I get from hearing my totally deaf Bass Guitar student playing an unaccompanied Bach Cello suite after only 2 years. Sometimes I feel sorry for them.

  192. Great post! Like you, i avoid posting about my job as a music educator on my blog(s), but sometimes you just have to let the frustration out. I may share this post in the near future, if you don’t mind.

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