The First is the Worst: How I Became a Music Teacher

I’m new at this blogging thing, so hide the breakables and hold onto your pants!

I’m sure one day I’ll look back at my first post and wonder what hell-raising drug I was on (it’s only flonase, I promise!). I’ll stifle an elegant chuckle while considering how juvenile I was and much more worldly and experienced I am now that I am no longer a music maven, but a music MASTER, and good heavens, is that a preposition at the end of a sentence? How immature!

I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to sustain blogs in the past.  Like diaries, they contained lukewarm ramblings that were mediocre at best, with no true purpose or point to convey. I’d post once a month for about 6 months, review my first post, recoil in agony, then promptly delete the entire thing so as not to embarrass myself. In hindsight, those blogging endeavors were probably directly indicative of a greater issue, which was that I had no idea what the hell what I wanted to do with my life.  Post-degree (the first one, that is), I started off by naively chasing down a “dream” public school music teaching job where I could work an excessive number of hours and willingly throw my marriage on the rocks for a rather smallish salary (for the record, I did sludge my way through two years in a half-time gig before deciding they could talk to the hand). In the spirit of true recession, I was met with a lot of rejection, which I took pretty personally before realizing I didn’t really want to do that.

A quick sidebar: this is NOT to say that if you teach a public music job that you are on my blacklist. Not all jobs are treated equally. I have oodles of friends that are wildly successful in their public school teaching positions. We collaborate, support each other, even drink together, and it’s all fine. It just wasn’t for me, but that’s a whole ‘nother post for a rainy day. I’m sure I’ll insult people without meaning to along the way. If I don’t, I’m probably doing it wrong.

Back to my life story: Meanwhile, in paradise, did I sell myself on the streets to make a living as a music teacher? No! Next best thing…I taught music lessons!

early teaching days: from the first studio recital I put on six years ago
early teaching days: from my kids’ first studio, circa 2008

I started with a handful of students through my student teaching (lessons were on Sundays – that was the only time I wasn’t killing myself trying to be the bestest student teacher in the HISTORY of student teachers). They grew with me, were patient enough to withstand some god-awful “I have no idea what I’m doing” moments, most of which were at the piano (even years of piano training couldn’t prepare me for accompanying vocalists). The studio grew slowly; I built my library, took on more students, and before I knew it, I had a fully booked teaching schedule. I have students now that have been with me from the beginning. I’m inundated with pride at what they can do and who they have become…and I helped make that! Hashtag tear!

Fast forward several years, a master’s degree, loads of sentimental coming-of-age moments in teaching and performing, and I have finally hit a stride as a musician and a teacher. And it only took three pianos, a kajillion private students (many of which could not match a pitch to save their lives), and a decent-but-not-unhealthy amount of tear-soaked tissues and alcohol.  If any of my students or families are reading this, you’re about to learn a LOT about your teacher…but don’t worry, I keep it all healthily bottled up inside during studio time!

But I’m not done…I’m still outgrowing some career habits (never practicing ever drinking too little water) and building new ones (teaching in my pjs returning e-mails promptly). I have a lot of “next step” ideas for my musical life, so this blog is part professional development, part documentation of my early career, and part LOVE. I love making music, sharing music, teaching music, being, smelling (?) and tasting music. If I could marry music, I would. My husband (the computer scientist) would have to find someone else to make sure he’s showering on a semi-regular basis and isn’t wearing shirts with gaping holes in the armpits…easy enough.

Music is my life, and I love my life! I even own a home, eat off of real plates, and sustain myself financially through the sheer act of loving and sharing music! If you’re anything like I was five years ago, you may be wandering, hopeless, wondering why on God’s green earth you didn’t just get a degree in business because good god where are all the jobs? Fear not, dear reader, for I have seen the light, and am looking forward to sharing with you how to create the best musical life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no MASTER, but let’s help each other out, no? With any luck, five years from now, you’ll  look back at your first interview / job / blog post, toast your career accomplishments with a well-aged brandy in a moderately-priced tumbler, and laugh nonchalantly at how juvenile you used to be. Cheers.

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