Expand Your Circle

Inspiring Pathways to Potential 

By NAfME Members Dr. Amy M. Knopps and Dr. Lori Schwartz Reichl

“Finding inspiration in the success of others is a common way to find motivation to follow through on your goals.” Ronald Valentino

The comparison trap can deter us from our goals, dreams, and aspirations. With the prevalence of social media, we can instantly observe someone’s post, accomplishment, photo, recording, or reel. These observations may make us feel less accomplished, or not as knowledgeable or successful as others. We may have feelings of bitterness, jealousy, or doubt when we observe what others are doing, producing, and achieving. At times, this comparison may discourage us from pursuing our own goals. We may convince ourselves that we are behind in our careers or personal lives, rather than grateful for how we have grown, and what we have created, achieved, and learned.

circle of people

iStockphoto.com | Caiaimage/Martin Barraud

Instead of comparing ourselves to others, what if we were inspired by our peers? What if we turned to others for advice, support, or motivation? What if we put our fears aside and contacted someone we admire? What if we kindly reached out to this person for guidance? If we break down the unnecessary barriers between one another, we can foster not only engaging professional relationships but also be inspired by others’ influence, passion, and work. This opportunity to connect may elevate what we are doing with our own work, programs, or projects.

Questions for Reflection

How do we create pathways to expand our circle and inspire our potential? How do we allow ourselves to demonstrate vulnerability, especially to those we respect or may not know? What avenues should we use to find inspiration? Whom should we contact? When is the best time to ask for support? How can we go about making a new connection? What emotions will we experience if we attempt to expand our circle?

Motivating Steps toward Inspiration

Consider these five steps to expand your circle and draw inspiration from others:

Step 1: Value Yourself

It is important to be proud of and place value upon the work you have done up to this point in your career or life. Consider the resources that have been available to you and the professional infrastructure that you inherited. Claim your accomplishments and battles won, no matter how small. Remember, no singular workplace is perfect. As much as we may believe our colleagues have it easier than we do, in reality, they likely do not. Everyone is faced with a range of challenges unique to their own situation, such as classrooms, programs, or organizations. Although we may put pressure on ourselves to strive for perfection in terms of our professional output, we must convince ourselves that perfection does not exist. We should be at peace with striving for excellence rather than perfection.

Step 2: Recognize Potential

As educators, we are fortunate to work in a supportive and collaborative professional community that is often ready to lift each other up and help each other. If you need to ask your colleagues for guidance or support, you may feel like you have failed in some respect but know that you have not. Push yourself past these feelings as best as possible and know how many of us are here to help inspire you, not look at you with a critical eye. Begin with the end in mind and do not be afraid to approach those who inspire you. The person that you admire likely required similar motivation in their life and still may. Recognize the potential that could come from seeking new inspiration.

Step 3: Prepare for Engagement

Reflect on why you want to expand your circle. Consider with whom you want to connect and how they may be able to support you. You may be drawn to inspirational figures whom you perceive to be competent, confident, and charismatic. Be cautious and certain to seek out those who appear to demonstrate ambition, yet also set healthy habits, respect boundaries, appear kind, and seem compassionate. Think less locally and more globally. Also, do not forget those within your extended family or friends’ circles who could become a source of inspiration for you. Draft an introductory message to the person(s) with whom you hope to connect. Consider complimenting them first, followed by specific and concise intentions about what you hope to achieve from this connection. Ask these inspirational figures if they can meet with you in person, remotely, by phone, or through email/message exchange. Explain how a meeting could benefit you and others in your care.

mentor relationship between colleagues

iStockphoto.com | Courtney Hale

Step 4: Show Gratitude

Everyone’s time is precious. People donate their time, both personally and professionally. Do not expect others to always be available to help at no cost, especially if a prior relationship has yet to be made. Understand that a fee may be expected, a beverage or meal appreciated, or a favor given in return. However, at times, a simple thank you may be all that is needed. Regardless, show gratitude in unique ways after the initial connection has been made.

Step 5: Follow-Up

You may be elated after your initial motivational meeting has occurred or a new friendship has blossomed. This respected person could become a constant figure in your circle or may live in your memory from that one-time connection. As time passes, do not forget them. And if you re-engage, a gentle reminder of your previous meeting may be required. Follow up by letting them know how you were inspired, the ways you felt supported, what you have since achieved, and most importantly, how it made a difference in the lives of those you lead. Circle back if you have an additional question or require greater clarification if your actions did not result in your desired outcome.

Hands holding global network

iStockphoto.com | ipopba

The demands on our time and energy are significant and challenging. These demands often multiply as we develop as human beings and advance in our careers. We need strong advocates and allies in our circle now more than ever! As we evolve, both personally and professionally, so should our motivational figures. Understand that initial connections could potentially yield long-term bonds and continued inspiration.

We (authors Amy and Lori) expanded our own circle to include each other after being inspired by and developing respect for each other’s professional accomplishments. Together, our potential is even greater! Now, we challenge you to expand your circle. It may be the inspiration and motivation you need to achieve your desired goals!

About the authors: 

Amy Knopps headshot

Photo by Dale Lloyd Photography

Dr. Amy M. Knopps is the Associate Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Missouri where she directs the Marching Mizzou, Mini Mizzou, Symphonic Band, and teaches courses in the music education curriculum of the School of Music. Prior to her appointment in the fall of 2017, Dr. Knopps served for seven years as Associate Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands at Eastern Michigan University.

Dr. Knopps holds degrees from The University of Georgia (DMA), the University of Kansas (MM), and the University of Missouri (BS, Ed.) where her principal conducting teachers were Dr. John P. Lynch and Dr. Dale J. Lonis.

Dr. Knopps continues to be an active conductor, clinician, and adjudicator across the United States, and internationally having worked and performed throughout Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, and South America. Each summer, she serves as a clinician/instructor at the Smith-Walbridge Clinics held in Charleston, Illinois, working with high school and collegiate drum majors from across the country. She is also known for her published articles in School Band and Orchestra Magazine and has contributed to eight volumes of the Teaching Music Through Performance in Band series.

Dr. Knopps maintains memberships in several professional affiliations and is currently serving on the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) Athletic Bands Committee and as Missouri State Chair. In 2021, Dr. Knopps was named Associate Professor of the Year by the College of Arts and Science and received the Purple Chalk Teaching Award.

Lori Schwartz Reichl 2021

Photo: Richard Twigg Photography

Dr. Lori Schwartz Reichl is a champion of mentorship and motivation. Her mission is to encourage individuals to reflect on our practices while making key changes to refresh strategies that represent a shared vision to enrich the classroom, company, and community. Dr. Reichl’s unique educational experiences have permitted her to expand her multifaceted career into a portfolio as a clinician, conductor, instructor, writer, and speaker.

Dr. Reichl has served as a proud educator since 2001. In Pennsylvania, she received the Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Daniel Boone Area School District, and in Maryland, she was a finalist for the Howard County Parents for School Music Educator of the Year Award and the Howard County Public School System’s Teacher of the Year Award. She designed her mentoring work into two graduate courses that she instructs at The University of the Arts (Philadelphia) and VanderCook College of Music (Chicago). She also serves as a contributing member of advocacy organizations.

Musically, Dr. Reichl serves as an adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor for honor bands in many states. Generally, Dr. Reichl is the author of nearly 100 articles that have been reprinted with permission by more than 10 organizations worldwide. She has presented hundreds of professional development sessions and keynote speeches for educational systems and organizations in half of the nation’s states including international events. In addition, Dr. Reichl has been interviewed for 16 podcasts and creates inspirational content for a monthly newsletter consisting of thousands of subscribers.

Contact Dr. Reichl and invite her to collaborate with your students, educators, and administrators.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

March 7, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

April 2024 Teaching Music

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March 7, 2023


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March 7, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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