Music as a Mirror:
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Michelle Droe
The GRAMMY Museum Foundation and the Recording Academy chose 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.
Michelle Droe teaches general music to grades K-6 at Lincoln Elementary in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This marks her 26th year of teaching. Michelle has taught in Colorado, Florida, and Iowa. She was a co-director of the Greeley Children’s Choir in Greeley, Colorado, and currently teaches chorus at Lincoln in Cedar Falls. She graduated with a BA in Music Education from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and an MM in Horn Performance from the University of Northern Colorado.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
I watched and admired my dad’s work as a band director in St. James, Minnesota, where I grew up. I also knew I loved being around kids when I taught swimming lessons and babysat as a high school student. Then there was my early love of music, pushing for piano lessons in kindergarten, and then falling in love with the French horn in high school. I think I saw how important music was in my life, and I wanted to bring that experience to as many others as possible.
[Music] can be that mirror enabling us to reflect and become our best selves.
What goals do you establish for the music program at your school(s)?
To encourage a growth mindset in my students and in myself as an example for students, to learn from failure and not seek perfection. A willingness to try lots of things and to grow from any frustrations or mistakes we may make. Also, making sure music is reaching as many students as possible and trying to allow them to use the music of their choice to stay involved, as well as seek out different opportunities in the arts.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
It has encouraged me to have a more comprehensive outlook and not just rely on one method of teaching. To take a look at research and try to learn from that research by trying new ideas with students. The organization has offered a leadership role which has really stretched me and allowed my own personal growth while reaching out and assisting other members.
What would you say to students interested in studying music education?
I think it is necessary to take their personality into consideration. It is not for everyone. Students need to know the challenges and the joys. They should be careful to really maximize their time in college getting out to real situations in public schools to observe, assist, and gain teaching experience as quickly as possible. It will make all their methods classes be so much more pertinent.
It is easy in college to perform as a music education major. I know the value in it, as I did that, but when your degree is in Music Education, TEACHING is the art to master.
It is easy in college to perform as a music education major. I know the value in it, as I did that, but when your degree is in Music Education, TEACHING is the art to master. I wish I’d been more aware of that when I was in college. I honestly thought it would be easy and that playing my horn was the more important pursuit.
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
I believe it to be of vital importance. I know it changes lives for the better—gives students a place to belong and a safe way to express themselves. In this new phase of doom-and-gloom headlines, 24-hour news cycles, one-on-one technology, and information overload, expressing our artistic side can bring a reprieve necessary to point us in a new direction or simply bring us balance. It can be that mirror enabling us to reflect and become our best selves.