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Turning Down my Dream Job: A Dissertation Death Story (Sort of)

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop working on my dissertation, and gradually my mind started drifting to this past week with my students.


This always happens to me… I call it “Dissertation Death by Distraction…”  Anyhow, I’ll bring it back to life again soon… But for now, I should get back to being distracted…


This summer, I was actually offered a college teaching job, doing exactly what I want to be doing: teaching our future music teachers how to teach orchestra.  Everything about the job seemed perfect… Well, everything except for one giant issue (I’ll save that story for another time)… And perhaps it is taboo to be writing this right now… But I’ve never been one for following conventional paths, so I am writing it… Either way, after mulling it over and over and over and over, I ended up turning the job down in favor of my current position.  I spent so much of the summer fearing what might come.  Would I regret the decision?  Would I spend this entire year mourning my own unrealistic standards for my future job?  I was so worried that I even made a poster of the reasons I turned down my “dream job.”

In spite of all of my fears, this year has been even better than last year.  The first day of school, I waited outside of my door in my cute little first day back outfit, anticipating a year of frustration.  And yet… the minute school started, I noticed a trend in my students… A new obsession with orchestra gear… Seriously… Every day, a good 50% of my students were wearing something with our heartbeat…


An orchestra hoodie, t-shirt, carrying a binder covered in our logo… I was amazed.  I hadn’t seen this before.  Even the freshmen!  No…  especially the freshmen.

Then, I noticed that musically, my musicians were better than ever before… We lost some incredible musicians in the past year (they are now at college and many are majoring and minoring in music) and I was genuinely worried about how we would sound.  And yet… It’s as if they knew they would need to step up.  And they did. When I ask them to breathe with me before the start of the phrase, they do.  On time!  And without laughing about it!  When we successfully improve an excerpt so that the music begins to come to life, they notice… “Oh my goodness!  I just got chills!”  “You guys!  We need to do that again!”  THEY say these things!!!!  And when I say “You need to practice this…” they agree with me and they don’t even complain!

There have been so many amazing moments in just this first month of school, but perhaps the best happened yesterday.  We were preparing for our annual Tag Day fundraiser (it’s basically organized fundraising).  I was giving my students instructions for how to approach people for donations and they just didn’t seem as invested. I listed all of the reasons we were raising money: Spring Trip! Sectional Coaches! Better Instruments!  And then… I decided to bring them in to reality.

So I said “You know… Honestly, this is why we need to meet our goal… Because last year we had seven violinists who needed an instrument to use for the summer. You don’t need to know who these violinists are, but they came to see me asking for an instrument because they don’t own one… And so, we found the money to buy these instruments… We bought seven instruments so that our musicians wouldn’t have to be without a violin for three months.  We need this money because we are family and we take care of our family.” And my students burst into applause, determined to make our goal.

When I needed to switch one student from her best friend’s group to another to maximize efficiency, my student didn’t complain.  Instead, she said “It’s okay!  I will make friends in this other group too!”  When we were $20 away from our goal, students started taking change from their pockets to donate to get us there… It brings tears to my eyes just to think about it… And when the day was done and we had surpassed our goal, some of my students asked if they could go out again to continue to raise money.  I said “Sorry guys, but it’s time to go home,” they asked if they could go out tomorrow to bring in more money.  And when I said, “You did an incredible job today!” They said “We can still do better.”


I already have the dream job. And while I know that I will eventually move into the college teaching realm, because it is my calling, I am insanely grateful for the opportunities I have had with these students and with my “unrealistic standards” for a future job.

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