What It’s Like to Be a Music Teacher

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Career Advice

Millennials, if you’re considering a career in the field of music, a great career option with many available jobs in which you can utilize your music degree is to teach young people. I spoke with Mike Rodgers, a millennial with significant music education experience, about his career.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What led you to your career path? Did you always know you wanted to be a music teacher?
A: My career really chose me. I went to school with a career as a music teacher as a backup plan. I wanted to be a rock star. I always knew I would do something in music. Somewhere along the journey of student teaching, I fell in love with being in the classroom and with the children. I am glad I listened to my band teacher from high school, who said he always saw me doing this.

Q: Have you had any mentors in the field that helped guide you to where you are today?
A: Yes—I have had several mentors. First, my dear friend and former colleague Louis Panacciulli (who is also the maestro of the Nassau County, NY, Pops Symphony Orchestra) who guided me when I got started. Second, the principal I work for, Frank Huplosky, who has demonstrated and inspired me to be a better teacher, leader and person. Finally, my old band teacher Tyrone Jones continually assures me of my own abilities. Finally, and as corny as it may sound, I feel as though God has always intervened in my life to allow me to be where I am supposed to be. It is because of the divine plan that I am where I am, and in my faith, I remain humble and gracious constantly for the gifts and talents I am given.

Q: What are your job responsibilities—simply stated?
A: My responsibilities are to teach children of all ages all aspects of music from all angles possible. My specialty is choral music!

Q: How do you prepare for your classes and lessons?
A: Honestly, I usually use the time of year as a guide for specific lessons. For example, Halloween is great for teaching minor tonalities and dynamics. The spring is great for brighter music. Winter lends itself to so many holidays. There are available catalogs of songs that suit everything from Christmas to Arbor Day.

Q: Which age groups do you teach?
A: I teach kindergarten to sixth grade General Music and Chorus in a public school setting.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part of the job is the children. I love seeing their faces when they accomplish something musical. I also have the most incredible co-workers.

Q: What makes teaching music different than teaching other subjectsi.e. science, studio art, P.E.?
A: Music is the only subject where your hobby is also what you do every day. There is the music you have to do and then the music you want to do. We are constantly trying to be working musicians as well.

Q: Describe your typical day.
A: Get up at 6:30 a.m., plan for chorus, teach chorus, get ready for five classes, eat a good lunch, have rehearsals, practice my music and then head home. When home, practice more music, prepare for the next day and if there is a concerthead there!

Q: What career advice would you offer to millennials looking to become music teachers?
A: To all those millennialsif this is what you want to doremember that sacrifice is not above you. Also, nobody owes you anything. If you get your foot in the door, then job opportunities are yours to lose. You may believe that you are the best at your craft, but there is always more to learn and if you think there isn’t, do the world a favor and leave the profession, because there is no room for “know-it-alls.” Work hard, get there early, stay late and never forget why you became a music teacher. Never stop practicing. Finally, and this is the most important, if you want to change the world with musicthen do itand stop talking about. If you are resentful or entitled at any point, you will have a career of disappointing experiences and let downs, and are no good to anyone. Music is a gift and beautiful craft and if you abuse the power you have using it, than you don’t deserve to teach it. Everyone is replaceablemake yourself unique.

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