Category Archives: Arts Education

It’s a Party – and I’m Not There

It’s that week again. The ONE week of the year that makes me miss teaching, and specifically miss teaching music, more than any other.

Music Educators’ Convention Week.

While that may sound like a snoozefest to some, I read an old Funky Winkerbean comic the other day that describes it best. Ready?

‘It’s like Spring Break for band directors.’

And not just band directors. Choir, orchestra and elementary music teachers converge by the thousands. From all over Texas. From out of state. It’s huge. There are not one, but TWO huge exhibit halls full of enough instruments and sheet music to bonfire New York – as well as enough fundraising cookies, sausages, candies and chocolates to feed a small country. Seriously. You can just walk the exhibits and eat samples all day without spending a dime. I’ve done it.

And then there are the workshops. Pick and choose from hundreds on any topic from How to Get the Snotnosed Kid With an Attitude Problem to Love Music to Fundraising 101 to Folk Dances from Outer Mongolia. Seriously. And each one of them is led by an expert in the field, recorded for future reference and most actually have door prizes. Good ones. Score!

And the concerts! Invited groups from all over the state. All levels from elementary choir to university orchestra. Winners of the state Honor Band contests. Usually a professional group or two. And to top off the weekend, the All-State ensembles’ concerts. AND MOST OF THESE ARE FREE!! What more could a total music geek ask for?

I’ll tell you. I wanna go. The Spouse headed out this morning and I’m seriously green. So jealous I could spit. Not because I miss the tantrums, the puke, the public school schedule and issues with helicopter parents.

I miss the camaraderie. The networking. The sheer possibility of professional learning and personal brain-stretching that I always experienced at Convention. The idea that a group of grown adults actually gather on a Thursday night for two hours’ worth of folk dancing – for the fun of it – makes my music-historian-geek start to drool. I mean it.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that all of this musical loveliness takes place in San Antonio? On the Riverwalk?

That’s where the Spring Break part comes in. Because in the midst of all the professional inspiration, you can walk steps to any one of the plethora of amazing restaurants and shops nearby. Take a break. Eat fabulous food. Hang out with old college friends, new acquaintances and colleagues. Network. And of course head down to Swig or Durty Nellie’s for some live music and/or a beverage if you’re so inclined. And the funniest part? You can spot all of the band directors a mile away – something about the briefcase, name badge and Dockers combo.

Can you tell I miss it? The idea of being kid-free with the Spouse, away from home, in San Antonio and getting professional inspiration all in one? Heaven. Nirvana. Whatever you want to call it.

But is it enough to make me want to go back there? To go back to teaching public school music to groups of up to 60 youngsters at once? No.

But I’m thinking a nice private school gig would suit me just fine. Now I just need to fit that into my day job and writing schedule.

What about you? What inspires you personally and professionally?

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Filed under Arts Education, Careers, Music, Music teachers, Performing Arts, Personal growth, Uncategorized

Soapbox Time

What in the world has happened to education around here? Oh, right. It’s a business. First and foremost it’s a business, and that means that the focus is on money. Focus on test scores so that the kids will score high enough that the districts get money to pad their ever-shrinking budgets.

And what is lost? I’ll tell you – here in H-town, it’s kids’ exposure to the arts. I’m not talking about middle and high school orchestra, band, choir and theatre. Nope. Those are alive and well. But where do those programs get their numbers? Kids. Little kids who grow with an interest in the arts. And if they’re not exposed to it at a young age (by a teacher with a clue who shares their own love of the arts), then secondary programs are doomed.

I don’t get it. Back when I first started teaching, every kid in most districts around here had at least one opportunity during their elementary school years to experience the performing arts up close and personal – a live performance, trip to the museum, you name it. But here? That was the first thing to go when the budget started getting tight. It burns me up. No more field trips, no more excursions to the museum or the symphony. At least not in the districts around my ‘burb.

What are people thinking?? Obviously they haven’t read or considered this excellent article from The Washington Post. It’s not just the arts programs that suffer – it’s the whole child. What do we want as our society’s legacy? Constant connectedness through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – or a lasting legacy of fine art. Consider this: we base our opinions of ancient societies based on artifacts and literature left behind. And right now our legacy of Tweets and status updates is becoming the norm.

It makes me miss home even more, because obviously schools and school administrators up in Big D have their heads on straight. Those kids still get the field trips to the arts, and many also get weeks spent in outdoor classrooms experiencing science firsthand. WHAT’S WRONG WITH H-TOWN?? IT’S THE FOURTH-LARGEST CITY IN AMERICA, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Maybe it would help if our parents and teachers were more vocal – oh, wait, arts teachers continually lobby for greater presence. They’re already doing that. But to no avail.

Can you tell I want to move home today?

And just a side note – I hope some homeschooling parents read the Washington Post article too. I had a conversation about homeschooling just the other day with a friend who actually gets it – and does the deed properly, putting their kids first and foremost.

But the arts are still lacking for those kids too – unless they have exceptional parents who place a high priority on the arts, they’re not getting it. Those kids may be lucky enough to learn biology from a biologist and history from a medieval scholar – but that’s not the whole child. Listening to an iPod 24/7 or finger painting three times a week do not constitute exposure to and education in the fine arts. And the arts are a necessity for every child.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Agree with me? Leave a comment. Disgusted with and ready to shoot me? Leave a comment. My point here is to make you think, and inspire some kind of action. Because I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want humans three hundred years from now to think our greatest accomplishment to the world was the Tweet.


Filed under Arts Education, Budget, Field Trips, Houston, Performing Arts, Public Education