Inspired to Inspire: Music Educator Bucket List

Inspiration comes from many sources and helps to create goals, both personal and professional. Music Educators from across the globe provided insight into their goals, hopes, bucket list achievements and inspired moments in an effort to inspire the next generation of music educators.  Fellow teacher Joshua W. offered this bit of advice: “You have entered a noble profession, not due to the promise of wealth or fame, but because of the impact that you will be able to have in shaping and loving citizens of the next generation. You have been given the gift of sharing music with hearts yearning for connection and a way to express what lives inside them. Take care of yourself, love your family well, work selflessly. Remember, we teach people, not music.” -Joshua W.

Contributors to the content in this article represent hundreds of years of collective music education, from elementary school to collegiate level education and beyond. The goals they all shared are wholesome and noble. The achievements are communal, not personal. The focus is consistently on the students and not the educator. Certainly, an educator must possess a bevvy of knowledge to share with their students, to teach and to inspire, but that knowledge is only the foundation. Roughly 35% of the respondents to the survey indicated that the achievement of a particular degree (a Masters or PhD) in their field of musical education, was an important goal. It may be essential for teaching, but it wasn’t the focus nor a measure of success. 

Instead, important goals revolved around the EXPERIENCES that could be achieved with the collective musical student body. Traveling with a student group and participating in a major musical event to bring experiential learning to the concept of music, is a resounding goal for over 70% of the respondents. Bucket list achievements from performing on stage at Carnegie Hall to singing within the walls of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican were proudly expressed. For some, simply the accomplishment of being invited to compete on a state championship level was a crowning achievement. Others hold bucket list dreams to showcase their students on an international stage or watch the students make a connection to music roots during a percussion workshop in Puerto Rico. Experiences help build each person to their whole self. 

“The best day is when my students are excited and participate in my music lessons and I can see a vision outside of the moment.  The vision might be of becoming a part of the culture we are studying, through music or what an individual student can achieve through music.” -Tina B.

Conceptually, it sounds easy or even logical that music is important to education, but the fact is that music education and the arts face tremendous hurdles. Programs are being cut in many schools. Proper funding for resources is lacking in contrast to other extracurricular departments and the realities can be discouraging. Those that truly understand the importance of music education, champion the need to keep it alive and vibrant. 

“Music is fundamentally now engaged across subjects. However, we must not let music be dissolved in other subjects.  Instead of STEM coming to the arts take arts to STEAM, not in simply drawing a picture but delving into the scientific research of how the arts permeates every aspect of the future.” – Cora Q. 

The pressure to keep a music program vibrant and interesting is high in the current high-tech and digital screen age. Music may be at the tip of a student’s fingers within a phone or iPad and making that connection to its value and origin is a focus for all music educators. Jody D. encourages all music educators to “…show them (your students) your love of music. Be an advocate for the composer. Champion QUALITY literature! Don't feed your students "junk food music"!” It can be easy to be caught up in what’s trendy or popular. Certainly, fun can be inserted into many a music lesson, but Sandra D supports standards.
“Don't sell out to those who would decaffeinate or dumb down what is involved in making glorious music.” 
Lauren R. offers similar advice, “It's okay to give a nod to current musical culture, but instil in them a love of the roots of music and give them the tools they need to sing to their children, or we won't have any music left.”

With the pressure to develop young musicians or create life-long appreciators of music, how does one measure success? Eric B sums up his point of view simply, “To help young people value music and appreciate the differences in various types of music and people…The greatest satisfaction I have is watching students take ownership of their band program and hearing from alumni about the great things they are doing (in or out of music).”

Marcus M. would like to, “start a trend of celebrating students (Music Education Signing Day) that sign music scholarships at any collegiate level…When my career is over, I'd like to be able to look back and know that I made tangible and intangible impacts on my profession and on the lives of students.” 

None of the music educators surveyed for this article envisions a future that stops with retirement. Many expressed ways they would continue to teach, mentor or inspire those around them. For most, retirement simply means changing the physical location of where they go off to work each day. The love of music never dies. One thing is for sure, there is always a new generation of student on the horizon and this group feels strongly that more great music educators are needed, every day, to keep inspiring that generation.  As reminded by Joshua’s opening quote, music education is about teaching people. Madeline P. offers her advice to up and coming music educators.
“Always be kind to your students. Set rules and expectations that are fair and simple to follow. Hold every student to the same expectations of effort and behavior.  Build a kind, supportive community within your classroom.”

Ariel C. encourages all music educators to keep growing, themselves. “Success is coming out on the other side, knowing more about what you set out to learn, as well as (more) about yourself.”

So to all you current, future and hopeful educators of music, what’s on your inspired bucket list?