Dear Dr. Hammer,
Today was my first day of teaching at Hart Middle School. Three choirs, two bands, and one string orchestra later, I am proud to say that I am still kicking. For the most part, I didn't feel like I was fighting and struggling as I had feared. In fact, most of it was quite breezy. Meeting my new students and welcoming to my world of music was both exhilarating and exhausting.
As I made my final preparations this weekend, I thought about all our interactions, the night I learned of your passing, and how much I miss you. I reflected upon the lessons you taught me, and all the ways you prepared us for our careers. You taught me about music, leadership, and gratitude. You pointed us to resources that would help us "teach long and prosper" so that we would live a balanced life in- and outside of the classroom. Perhaps the most powerful lesson– the Yggdrasil of them all, if you will– was on developing our own music education philosophy. From this everything stems: lesson planning, interacting with students, and music education advocacy, to name a few.
I confess, when we were first tasked with developing our philosophy for music education in Senior Block, I might have fudged it a little. But over the past nine or so months, it's changed into something more robust thanks to you, Dr. Brittin, and all the other amazing educators I've come across during my time at Pacific. I'll refine it as the years go by, but for now here is my revised philosophy of music education, submitted without a running head:
My philosophy as a music educator is that students have the right to a comprehensive education. What does that mean? As a teacher I have a duty to educate both the mind and the heart. My goal is that both students and I will grow together as musicians and as human beings through all of our interactions. Student should be given the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for a lifetime of music making, whether just as a hobby, or as a profession.
Students will be asked to think critically about music and explore music past the traditional model of ensemble-based education. The recently adopted California standards for music ask students to engage in music not only by performing, but also by responding, creating, and connecting.
Arts and culture represent 7% of California’s economy, or $185B, and most of that isn't about playing the right notes at the right time. It's about synthesizing skills to become a formidable musician in the 21st century. One that is a performer, composer, teacher, administrator/organizer, entrepreneur, producer/engineer, and artist-citizen.
Although it's a long way from adolescence to professional, my goal is to spark curiosity and provide students with a foundation from which they can build upon should they want to pursue such a deeply rewarding field. And that, of course, will be done with the help and support the community: administrators, parents, and most importantly, students.
I miss you dearly, but I am excited to find the bits and pieces of your musicality, kindness, and bright energy reincarnate themselves in the next generation of students. I'll do my best to tend to the saplings.
Thank you so much, Dr. Hammer. I wouldn't be here without you. Here's to teaching long and prospering.
Musician, facilitator of learning, organizer.