Growing up in my school district of Anchorage, Alaska, I attended school with a student body that was diverse in beliefs, socio-economic status, and ethnicity. Our differences never hindered our common pursuit of academic excellence or enjoyment. In my music ensembles, we all worked together to perform repertoire that met high standards and valued everyone’s efforts. We were given opportunity, effective instruction, and encouragement to create musical performances that we valued as our own. My performing arts faculty members were responsible for this positive and productive environment. These music educators used their instruction to educate me not only about the importance of rhythm, melody, and phrasing, but also about the understanding and success that all cultures and individuals can achieve through musical expression.
In the lessons that I teach today as a music educator, I always seek to provide students with effective instruction, exposure to purposeful content, and engaging activities. Students need to be exposed to great music modeling consistently. I expose students to great standard repertoire as well as more current, mainstream media they encounter every day. I believe this familiarly allows lessons to be more relevant and clear. Above all, I want students to have plenty of chances to experiment, experience, explore, and embody the music for themselves. I use various means including aural, kinesthetic, and visual modes to have all students participate. These approaches provide me with various sources of data useful for student assessment and lesson plan remediation. Taking risks is strongly encouraged. Mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn, not moments of shame. Students can improve both technical skills and knowledge of culture within the aural context of my music class.
Music has the power to transcend stereotypes and the mundane routine of everyday life. All students can explore others’ perspectives and achieve an open mind for learning. Through musical activities, students learn that all groups of people have values and unique forms of expression. Appreciating these forms of expression can lead to understanding, communication, and shared collaboration, time-honored and important principles in all art forms. Regardless of their career paths as adults, I want my students to acquire life-long skills that allow them to continue experiencing, consuming, and creating art in their communities and lives.