It Takes a Village to Raise a Music Program:
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Brandi Jason
The GRAMMY Museum Foundation and the Recording Academy have chosen 10 finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award. Eight of the finalists are NAfME members as was last year’s winner, Keith Hancock of Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Teachers are encouraged to apply for the 2019 award by March 31 by visiting GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. Participating in the application process makes you part of our overall music education advocacy movement so teachers, apply this and every year.
Brandi Jason is the Instrumental Music Director at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, Maryland, where she has taught for nearly 13 years. Ms. Jason directs the concert band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, orchestra, jazz ensemble, and more. This is the second consecutive year Ms. Jason has been selected for the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
The deep respect and strong relationships formed with music teachers in K-12 inspired me to pay it forward and become a music educator. I was blessed to have talented, creative, and resourceful music educators who helped me realize my full potential and discover my true calling—music education. They taught me to push the boundaries of my musicianship, reach aggressively for the stars, the meaning of work hard and perseverance through setbacks, and they demanded that I play with heart and genuine emotion. Thank you Lynn Bogovich, Bradley Collins, Fred Jacobowitz, and Glenn Patterson for making a huge difference in my life.
What goals do you establish for the music program at your school?
My goal is to make instrumental music assessable to every student, even those who never played an instrument, cannot read music notation, or may be graduating in a year. My students run the gamut from All-Eastern to never played an instrument. I encourage students to push the boundaries of their musicianship by doubling, tripling, even quadrupling on instruments (especially declared music majors), as well as sampling different genres and styles. I’m extremely proud of the rigor, challenge, and diversity offered to students in the wind band, orchestra, jazz, percussion, and marching band programs, and I’m continually amazed at how students rise to the occasion, take risks, explore new concepts, and get excited about performance opportunities.
I believe it takes a village to raise an instrumental music program—students, parents, administrators, and the community—and my goal is to make those folks true stakeholders in my program. I regularly invite guest artists, guest conductors, and private lesson teachers to class. I think it’s important to hear from master musicians—their thoughts, insights, and suggestions—and it’s equally important for students to see me learning and growing with them. It’s well known that I have an open-door policy, and my students may feel inspired to perform a “mini concert” on short notice for visiting parents, staff, or administrators. Whether it be volunteer opportunities, the Boosters, outreach concerts, the Patriotic Pops/Veterans Concert, the student mentoring program, feeder school support, or Battle of the (rock) Bands, we strive to make instrumental music a strong visible presence by offering a little something for everyone.
“I believe it takes a village to raise an instrumental music program—students, parents, administrators, and the community.”
Finally, my goal is making a musical moment and creating a genuine music experience on stage and in the audience. As much as we strive for a note-perfect refined performance, it’s more important that we have a strong emotional connection that is believable. Making music together is truly enjoyable when everyone is fully committed to artistry. I can’t tell you how many notes were missed or the refinement of matched articulation and bowings from past concerts; however, I can tell you that I have had some truly moving experiences with my “kiddos” while on stage—memories that will last a lifetime.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
NAfME is a valuable tool for any music educator. Through the years I have been extremely impressed with the online resources sources offered through the website, as well as the articles published in the Music Educators Journal. NAfME has opened my eyes to professional development opportunities, differentiated teaching strategies, lesson plans for student and ensemble growth, strong arguments for music advocacy, and enriching performance opportunities for students. At Liberty we have an established chapter of the Tri-M® Music Honor Society, a program offered through NAfME for talented musicians committed to community service. This program has provided students with many leadership opportunities, as well as personal goals for music mastery and original student-lead service projects for musical outreach.
What would you say to students interested in studying music education?
Go for it! Trust your heart and follow your dreams! As a music educator I go to work every day doing exactly what I love—it’s not a job, it’s a passion. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing your students bring music to life, seeing their eyes light up as they experience that breakthrough/”aha moment,” watching them lay it all out on the field for a competition, or getting an unexpected visit from a former student thanking you for making a difference in his/her life.
“There is nothing more satisfying than hearing your students bring music to life.”
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
A well-rounded student has exposure to music education and an aesthetic appreciation for the fine arts. Research confirms music education enhances the growth of the core academic skills, however music education also develops creative and resourceful students who learn the value of teamwork, perseverance, and commitment to excellence. Students in music education learn valuable interpersonal communications skills, gain leadership experience, take risks, travel outside their comfort zone, and grow in self-awareness through the process of making music. Moreover, music education provides a creative outlet and emotional release for all students, particularly those who are experiencing difficulties in a traditional classroom setting.