Maintain Your Musicianship
Dust Off Your Instrument and Experience the Benefits
By NAfME member Lori Schwartz Reichl
This article was originally published in the January 2018 teacher edition of In Tune Magazine.
“What you seek is seeking you.”
As the new year unfolds, what resolutions are we making as music educators? Are they all personal or are we committing to professional ones, too? Why not choose a goal that will enhance both work and play? Let’s resurrect the musician in each educator.
Many music teachers confess that once their teaching careers begin, they no longer have the time to dedicate to their instrument. This is terrible! As educators, how can we remain excited about music if we no longer perform ourselves? How can we model proper musical techniques to our students if we are unable to dedicate time to our practice routine? Consider making a resolution that involves performing on the instrument that catapulted us into our phenomenal profession.
Responsibilities multiply as we age. Career, health, family, finances, and so forth take precedent over other areas of our lives. When we may have been practicing our primary instrument and improving our musicianship several hours a day in college, as working adults we may barely have the time to do so. We should learn to delight in our own personal music-making again.
We should learn to delight in our own personal music-making again.
Aim to do something to get your musical chops in shape this new year! This doesn’t have to be daily, but it should be efficient and part of our professional development, our teaching preparations, and our simple personal enjoyment. Conducting is an excellent skill, but if it does not include the actual playing of an instrument or singing with your voice, then we need to also include activities that will do just that.
If we want our students to practice effectively and perform enthusiastically, then we must show them the musical and disciplinary efforts we put forth. Creating ways to showcase our own musical talent to our students and the school community could elicit inspiration, fundraising, support, or simply admiration. Consider the following ways:
1) Begin by practicing your instrument.
If you are not currently doing anything with your instrument, then start small. Find it, dust it off, get it repaired, and use it. Once you feel confident practicing your musical skills again, consider ways to engage with other musicians or discover opportunities for performance. Volunteer at church to sing or play your instrument. Practice duets with a colleague. Organize a chamber ensemble, such as a trio, quartet, or quintet. Join a community ensemble. Perform in a musical as a cast member, ensemble member, or as a member in the pit orchestra.
2) Play or sing along in class.
Bring your instrument to school and play or sing along for a portion of a vocal or instrumental lesson, sectional, or rehearsal. Practice your transposition skills by playing along with different pitched instruments.
3) Demonstrate your practice routine.
If you aren’t a frequent performer, but practice on your own, then demonstrate your practice routine to your students. Discuss the challenges you face with scheduling the precious rehearsal time into your busy schedule. Perform an example of your personal warm-up routine, foundations of fundamentals, and repertoire selections.
4) Perform at a school/community event.
If you regularly perform as a cantor, choir member, or instrumentalist at church, as a soloist, as a member in a chamber group, or with a larger community ensemble, then showcase a performance to your students. You could do so as an individual musician or invite other members of your ensemble to visit your school for a combined performance. If a live performance is not possible, then record a performance to share with your students. Ask your administration if you or your ensemble could perform a school-wide or grade level performance during the month of March as a Music In Our Schools Month® assembly. Also, if there’s an opportunity for a school or community performance and your students are unable to commit, consider performing yourself.
5) Create a fundraiser opportunity.
Do your colleagues in the music department want to join you for a collaborative performance? Include them in the performance assembly or create a fundraiser concert during non-school hours. Charge a nominal admission for an audience and advertise that the proceeds will benefit the music department, a necessary equipment purchase, or an upcoming musical trip.
My phenomenal father, Frank Schwartz, a retired 31-year elementary and high school band director, was the prime example of maintaining his musicianship. He often would play along on trombone with his students at school and during private music lessons in our home. He would diligently practice his trombone and frequently perform in a brass quintet. He performed on trombone or sang at many church and family events. He was an incredible music educator and his example of musicianship extended through our home, school, and community. He sparked musical excitement in our family, motivated his students to practice and perform at a high level, and united the community through his love of music. Even in retirement, he continues to maintain his musicianship through many of these musical activities.
Are you still excited to practice, perform, and teach music? Do your students require more motivation? Allow your students the opportunity to experience your music-making abilities. These shared moments could rejuvenate your musical excitement and theirs. It may even encourage students’ parents, your colleagues, administration, and supporters to revive a love of music in their lives, too.
Reflect on all the ways maintaining your musicianship could benefit you, your students, your program, and your community. Resurrect the musician in yourself. Dust off your instrument and experience the benefits!
About the author:
NAfME member Lori Schwartz Reichl is a music educator and writer. Visit her at makingkeychanges.com.
Lori Schwartz Reichl is an active adjudicator, clinician, conductor, educator, speaker, and writer. She is the author of the series “Key Changes: Refreshing Your Music Program” published monthly in the teacher’s edition of In Tune Magazine where she provides resources to enhance the music classroom and rehearsal space. As a journalist for Teaching Music Magazine, she interviews master educators. Lori also serves as Coordinator of Howard County Public School System’s Secondary Solo & Ensemble Festival, Executive Director of the Regional Repertory Wind Ensemble where she collaborates with prominent composers, Music Education Intern Supervisor at Towson University, and instructor of her private saxophone studio. Since 2001, Lori has worked in rural, suburban, and urban public schools. Her bands consistently receive superior ratings at county, state, and regional adjudications. During her tenure as the first full-time band director at Daniel Boone Middle School in Berks County, PA, she received the Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. As band director of Oakland Mills Middle School in Columbia, MD, Lori was a finalist for the Howard County Teacher of the Year and Parents for School Music Educator of the Year Awards. Under her baton, the Oakland Mills Band received an Honorary Resolution from the Howard County Council and performed as the featured middle school band at the 2014 Maryland Music Educator’s Conference. Later that year Lori was asked to develop the music program for the county’s newest Title I school, Thomas Viaduct Middle School. In its opening year, the band received superior ratings at county and regional adjudications and was invited to perform at the state band festival. Learn more about Lori here.
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Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. January 15, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)