You Can Begin Again

The secret to success in any field may be getting up one more time than you’re knocked down.

Mary Ellen Cohn, executive director of the Maryland Music Educators Association, was recently obsessed by the repetitive song “Michael Finnegan”; its lyrics include the verse

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan.
He grew fat and then grew thin again.
Then he died and had to begin again.
Poor old Michael Finnegan! Begin again.

Cohn realized that “As teachers, we have a gift that very few professionals enjoy. We begin again. We start fresh. No matter how last year ended, we begin again. …”

[When asked if a student who was excluded from an all-state event due to misbehavior would be excluded the following year] Cohn said, “We are the teachers. We believe that our students are capable of learning, and learning a difficult lesson can be a reason to grow. … Next year will be a fresh start. We trust that our students will have learned and grown.”

Cohn offers advice for the fall: “As the year gets into gear, it may be time to consider music lists and lending libraries.” [Your state music educators/education association may have such lists online. Check out for other resources for the school year.]

“I hope you have enjoyed beginning again and are looking forward to a successful year, filled with music,” Cohn concludes.

This article was adapted with permission from “Begin Again!” by NAfME member Mary Ellen Cohn, executive director of the Maryland Music Educators Association, from the Fall 2011 issue of Maryland Music Educator, p. 12. The MME editor is Felicia Burger Johnston. Originall published on the NAfME website on November 10, 2011.

Ella Wilcox, September 7, 2012, © National Association for Music Education (