Cultivating a Love of Music:
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Ralph Jackson
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.
NAfME member Ralph Jackson teaches at Bridle Path Elementary and Montgomery Elementary Schools in the North Penn School District in Pennsylvania, where he conducts a total of 200 students in four orchestras. Mr. Jackson is a graduate of West Chester University, and completed graduate work at Gratz College and The University of the Art. He has presented sessions on teaching elementary orchestra at the Midwest Clinic International Band & Orchestra Conference and the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) annual conference. He also sits on the board of ArCoNet (The Arts and Community Network), and was the founder and director of the award-winning former North Penn Youth Orchestra. Mr. Jackson was named one of the 10 finalists for the 2018 GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
When I began playing an instrument in elementary school I knew I wanted to be a music teacher. I was fortunate to grow up in a community with a strong and vibrant music program elementary through high school. The two teachers I had who inspired me most were my junior high school band director, Dennis Moses, and my college choir teacher, Lois Williams.
Dennis Moses ran a junior high school program that outperformed many high schools we encountered. Unlike many adults, he never underestimated us because we were young. It was his belief that young children could make high quality music that inspired me to work hard towards delivering the same type of education to my young students. My college choir director, Lois Williams, was most influential in teaching me how to rehearse a group and teach musicianship, beyond just performing notes and rhythms.
What are the goals you establish for the music program at your school?
I want to introduce elementary children to learning to play an instrument and cultivate a love of music that will remain with them for life. Music is a natural expression of the human soul, it is the confluence of the emotional, intellectual, physical, aesthetic, and social facets of humanity.
Music is a natural expression of the human soul, it is the confluence of the emotional, intellectual, physical, aesthetic, and social facets of humanity.
One of my main goals for all students in my orchestra is to have them experience a sense of belonging to a family. Another main goal is for my students to feel pride in knowing they have worked as hard as possible in pursing excellence. I want them to learn to work harder than they thought they could and to learn that hard work comes with many rewards. I believe once they have learned this it will carry through with them and give them the tools they need to pursue excellence and be successful in all areas of their lives.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
The resources NAfME offers have been invaluable. There is a wealth of information available online, at conferences, and in NAfME printed literature. NAfME gives music educators the opportunity to learn from leading experts as well as fellow teachers, and the information is always valuable and of the highest quality. I often will read an article or go to a workshop and find a new way of looking at the same problem or challenge I have been facing for years. Sometimes looking at an issue in a different way sparks ideas for new techniques and teaching strategies. If I attend a workshop and walk out with just one idea that I can bring back to use in my classroom, I consider the time well spent. These little ideas add up and before you know it you have a whole new set of skills and ideas to use in your classroom.
What would you say to students interested in studying music education?
I would encourage them to be open to all possible paths their music education degree may offer. I began my college career thinking I would teach high school band and had no interest in other options. When I began my career teaching band at the high school level I would never have dreamed my path would lead me to where I am now, teaching elementary strings. Through a series of wonderful opportunities, I chose to move to teaching band at the elementary level, and later strings.
If I attend a workshop and walk out with just one idea that I can bring back to use in my classroom, I consider the time well spent.
Being open to new possibilities within music education has allowed me to experience opportunities and successes I never even dreamed of, and helped me to find where I truly belong. Had I been more open to these possibilities during my college education I would have had less learning to do as I moved into these new areas.
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experiences of students?
Music is a most vital and meaningful component of a child’s academic education and life. Music promotes creativity, imaginative and critical thinking, and leads to the development of highly innovative and successful individuals. Children who participate in music education at school are provided with an authentic and unparalleled means of understanding and interacting with the world around them and the person within. Music cultivates life-long learning, music appreciation, self-expression and creativity, holistic education, self-discipline and work ethic, self-worth, self-awareness, self-esteem, collaboration, communication, interdisciplinary communication, and artistic potential.