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Inspiration – The Cycle of Awe

After a long but stimulating week of learning and practicing the Paul Rolland Pedagogy, I am feeling inspired to do more, to work harder, and to be greater.  The entire workshop is run by the students of Paul Rolland as well as his family, and a few other Paul Rolland followers.  It has become apparent that not only was Paul Rolland an incredible pedagogue and musician, but also a phenomenal mentor to all of his students.  Their dedication to his practices is a testament to the relationship between student and mentor and to the quality and depth of his contribution to string teaching.  So, I have been thinking about what I need to do to honor those who have inspired me, and to begin compiling my own life’s work.  Here are a few of the many people who have inspired me and how I try to honor their role in my life as I progress in daily teaching, researching, and thinking.

Paul Rolland

 When I was little, my mother encouraged every endeavor for which I expressed interest.  She tried to teach me piano lessons (that didn’t work out so well…) but still encouraged me and regularly praised my musical abilities.  This support provided a path from which I could begin my musical travels.  In elementary school, I had some phenomenal teachers who inspired me to read more (Mrs. Heath!).  I had one music teacher who was so attuned to what we needed at every single level that I had a stellar elementary music education which I look back on often with gratitude and astonishment that my music teacher could do so much.  I remember that her dedication was so great that when she was sick or out for a conference, she would make tape recordings with her voice so that we never missed a beat even if she was out.  This is quite amazing when you think about all of the classes she had to teach (K – 5 general music, orchestra, choir, and even band)!  I still don’t know how she did it.  I also remember her having us drop our instruments off in the morning and when we would return, they would be remarkably in tune.  She sat there tuning every one of our instruments on her planning time.  Incredible!  She supported me so much and is still a great inspiration to me.  Once I left her, I went on to have a wonderful middle and high school orchestra teacher who traveled between I don’t even know how many schools!

She encouraged me to start teaching private lessons at a very young age and I think she even formed the quartet that I was in (Opus Eight).  These activities only inspired me further.  In my lessons, I would notice issues with my young students and would look to my peers and my teachers as examples on how different people learn, teach, and play.  This was immensely helpful as I was forming my own teacher identity.  Of course, I still talk to Mrs. H and still adore her!  When she realized my passion for playing and even more for teaching, she encouraged me to apply to be a counselor at a string camp put on by the Ohio String Teachers Association (OSTA).

It was at the OSTA camp that I realized that I was actually kind of good.  Students seemed to love working with me and that motivated me more.  And then I met… Dr. Laura Joss.  I was absolutely taken with her ability to captivate an entire room of young musicians with a simple, but strict teaching method.  I am pretty sure that the students loved her so much that they would do just about anything just to see her smile.  She told funny stories, teased them, and then got back to music making.  Always music making.  Watching her formed much of my teacher personality and I began to practice the same style of teaching she presented within my own sectionals and my little campers and it worked!  These camps taught me so much that when I went on to college, I was better prepared than most of my peers and better able to understand the applicability of all that we were learning.

Then in college, we were thrown right into the frays of teaching.  Our very first semester included teaching experiences in inner city schools to students older than us!  Those experiences were phenomenal and seeing the improvement in even just one lesson provided even more motivation to me to be better.  To some day provide a better music education for all students.  To be more and more like my professors.  It was perhaps at this time that I realized I not only wanted to be a music teacher, but a teacher of music teachers.  I quickly saw that I had a unique talent and understanding when it came to teaching music that many did not have.  This was something special to share with everyone, but to cherish and not to waste.  And I knew my future would be great.

Now, after college, and a masters, and nearly all of my PhD courses, my motivations come from others.  My former student teachers and my mentees.  Watching them teach, learning from them, and seeing their passion inspires me to do more.  I am so proud of my mentees and I cannot wait to see where they go.  And I never want to disappoint them.  So I work to continue rising and to bring them with me.

This week, I had the pleasure of watching one of my former student teachers teach a lesson.  Her lesson was incredible.  It was paced so beautifully that the students (adults in this case) were engaged for the entire lesson).  The content was organized so well that the entire sequence not only made logical sense, but was scaffold ed in a memorable and enjoyable way so that the participants left with a solid understanding of the topic.  The balance between movement, music making, and talking was that of a seasoned teacher and was something to be admired.  I see her going places and am inspired by her own dedication and passion for music education.


And so I return once again to the cyclical nature of inspiration.  I hope that we can all continue to inspire one another and build a better music education, one little musician at a time!

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