Category Archives: Music teachers

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

The School Program

So last night was The Big Night in our house. The Christmas Program. Ok, ok, to be totally PC we had to call it the Holiday Musical. But really, it was a Christmas program with all the bells and whistles. My fourth grader has been so stoked about this program for weeks – especially since he was chosen to play percussion on two parts of the entire deal.

Having been an elementary music teacher in my past life, I took this whole experience with a big grain of salt. See, in my experience, programs have been an excuse for the school administrator to ‘look good’ with their peers by being able to brag that the number and quality of their programs were greater and better than any other school. I’ve stayed up nights worrying that Johnny will forget a line or sing off-key, and angry helicopter parents (expecting little Starla, Magnus and Felicity to appear in a Broadway-worthy production) would lynch me as a result. Seriously.
Not this program. It was a good ol’ Christmas program right up there with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. And I have to say that it was The. Best. Program. I’ve ever seen. Let me break it down for you.
Opening scene: three girls narrating the setting of the story (a town where it never snows – go figure). One of the girls, an adorable towheaded blonde, immediately forgot a line. When her friend tried to prompt her, she was quick to declare, “I don’t re-mem-ber!” into the microphone and looked to the music teacher for the same exact prompt. We laughed.
Next up: a few songs sung by adorably-dressed kids, looking totally like real kids in plain old winter clothes. No elaborate costumes, just regular kids dressed in regular stuff. Having a snowball fight with blow-up white beach balls. Did a couple of them get overzealous and peg their friends in the face? Of course they did. They’re nine. We laughed. I laughed even harder when the poor kid came out dressed as Frosty the Snowman, his costume stuffed so full of pillows that he could barely move, let alone ‘dance around’ like the song says. Honestly, he reminded me of Randy from A Christmas Story. ‘I can’t put my arms down!’ I cried, I was laughing so hard.
Next up: dancing mice (some of whom looked really thrilled to be there), chickens getting chased by a kid dressed as a Grandma making chicken soup, kids sneezing from the cold, an Elvis impersonator with a blow-up guitar, etc. etc. You can’t make this stuff up. Really.
My favorite – well, a tie for my favorite. The song about ‘Winter Wipe Out.’ Nine year old boys pretending to sled and snowboard – and having to fall down. Which was perfect. Mine love to do that anyway. Until one of the kids fell down with such enthusiasm that he also took down the scenery lamp post. Not planned. One of the other kids – who had already fallen down – jumped up and tried to pick up the lamp. It fell again. Complete. Greatness. Mascara was streaming down my face at this point.
Finally – the BIG FINALE. One boy was supposed to come running out to announce the latest radio broadcast – SNOW! Except for one thing. He got completely lost in all the fancy-radio-jargon of his lines, got frustrated, and finally shouted, ‘Whatever! It’s snowing!’ Truly brilliant.
THIS IS WHAT KIDS’ PROGRAMS SHOULD BE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! I actually had flashbacks to my own second grade program here. I vaguely remember Santa ripping off his beard at one point because it was too itchy. And, thanks to Facebook – and a friend with a serious photo archive – I’ve got pics to prove it. Don’t hate on the olive green stage curtain either. It was the late 70’s. Very much the thing to go with the gold and orange cafeteria décor at my elementary school. We thought we were hot snot because no other grade got to do a program. Check us out:

For the record, I was NOT one of the scary-looking dancing snowmen. Nope.

What gems do you remember from your own (or your kids’) programs? Do share – they’re too fabulous to keep to yourself!

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Filed under Christmas, kids, Moms, Music teachers, School Programs