Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Start of School and Hurricane Preparation

This morning, I am home while schools across North Carolina closed in preparation for the arrival of hurricane Florence. Here in the Triangle area, it looks like we will spared the damage of what was predicted to be a category 5 hurricane. Now like it will be more like a category 2 and will miss our area for the most part. That said, students at the North Carolina School of Science and Math will not have classes today and tomorrow. Many went home for the weekend and those who stayed at the school are hunkered down and ready for a wet, windy weekend. So, this seems like a good time to reflect on the first month of school and to start thinking about the upcoming fall season.

Orchestra at NCSSM is off to a great start. We would have had our annual Family Day on Saturday. It, of course, was cancelled due to the hurricane. Our plan was to play the classic string orchestra work, Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance, by Percy Fletcher. I was first introduced to this piece by my friend Dorothy Straub in 1988 at the Central Connecticut State University String Pedagogy Workshop It has been a staple of my repertoire sense that time and I was pleased to pull it out this fall. My new students at NCSSM have embraced this work and were clearly ready to perform it. At one time I heard that all music is either a love song or a pirate song. This two movement work definitely fits that description. The first movement, the Folk Tune has elements of both a love song and a swash-buckling pirate tune.  The second movement,  Fiddle Dance also swashbuckling pirate feel to begin and then finds its way to a love song in the middle "B" section. It is such a great work and there is so much one can teach an intermediate string orchestra contained within the work.  It was the perfect selection for early in the year with my kids.

The other string orchestra piece we have spent a good deal of time on is Howard Hanson's Variations on Two Ancient Hymns. This, too, has been a staple of my repertoire and is a really strong fit for my Orchestra this year. The work conjures up images of medieval cathedrals throughout.  The ending of the work is very large and features a huge ending with divisi celli. I have a huge cello section this year and truly the orchestra sounds like a plane taking off during this powerful ending of the work.

We have also begun putting together some full orchestra repertoire. I will be focusing on Brahms throughout the course of the year. So, how else would we begin the year but with Academic Festival Overture. My intention is to perform Brahms' Symphony No. 1 during the second term of the with my group. In addition the Brahms, we are preparing the beautiful piece entitled Wondrous by Karel Butz.  It is absolutely gorgeous and provides lots of opportunity for the mallet percussionists and keyboard players. I also have John Williams' Cowboy Overture and March to the Scaffold in the folders. I think that we may employ a large brass sections from our Wind Ensemble to participate in these pieces. Stay tuned for the final decisions for our fall concert in October!

Other highlights of the past month or so include a wonderful start to all three of the sections of my Classical Piano and Guitar course. I have students with a wide range of backgrounds and musical experience in the class. I find this class to be challenging on a daily basis in all the right ways. In addition, I have been hard at work with the board of the American String Teachers Association . We had our first Content Development Committee meeting this week and I was pleased with our strong start. Additionally, I have been performing a great deal around Durham. It has been wonderful to pull my looping technology for solo performances back out and get it in front of the public with a performance at the Iron Gate Winery in Mebane NC. We had a great crowd for a very hot Sunday afternoon! I'm looking forward to conducting All County events in Anderson South Carolina and Calvert County MD in coming weeks. Also, I will be making an appearance at Kennesaw State University in early November. So, there is a lot going on and a lot coming up. As we move through this wet and windy weekend in North Carolina, I wish all of you safety and protection from the crazy weather we are having. And, I wish you each inspiration and happiness as you move through the upcoming fall.



Saturday, August 18, 2018

Links and Resources for Charlotte Mecklenburg In-Service

Hello to my friends in Charlotte Mecklenburg!
I am looking forward to seeing you all on Monday.

I am honored to be representing Conn Music and Arts this week and to be invited to present to your string and orchestra community

As part of my sessions, I want to make a few resources available to you today.

Bringing STEM into the String and Orchestra Classroom
Handout with Links

Finding Fulfillment in Your Career in Music Education
Here is the link to the Pre-session  Survey
Here is a link to the full handout for my general session, "Finding and Maintaining Fulfillment in your Career in Music Education."

I can't wait to get started and see you all.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2018-2019 academic year!


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Links and Resources for Cobb County In-service

Hello to my friends from Cobb County, GA!
I am looking forward to meeting you all on Thursday.

I am honored to be representing Conn Selmer this week and to be invited to present to your string and orchestra community

As part of my sessions, I want to make a few resources available to you today.

Bringing STEM into the String and Orchestra Classroom
Handout with Links

Pedagogy from the Podium
Link to Finger Pattern Resources
Youtube Violin
Youtube  Cello
Youtube Bass

I can't wait to get started and meet you all.

All my best.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Perfectly tacky

This morning I was happy to have some time to head out to the mountain bike trails at Brumley Nature Preserve as I have been doing a great deal this summer. It is a warm morning and I was excited to get my ride in before it got too hot. I pulled into the parking lot and started getting my bike off the back of my car. A younger, female mountain bike rider came off the trails just about that time. She was fiddling around with her headphones and music in the parking lot and I went about my business. After a couple of minutes we made eye contact and I said, "How was your ride this morning"  A big smile came to her face and she replied, "It is a beautiful day today!  Perfectly tacky!"

After another minute she headed back onto the trails to continue her ride. I finished getting my equipment together and headed out as well. As I was enjoying the Solitude of the morning on the trails, I couldn't get that phrase out of my mind. Perfectly tacky. What a great way to approach a warm summer day. Within a mile or two, I had a good sweat going and I knew this was going to be a fun morning ride. I really didn't see another soul for the rest of the morning. I listened to the birds, did my best to avoid the scampering squirrels, and even saw a couple of deer. The forest is so beautiful in the morning.

I was really blessed this morning to be reminded  that it is  perfectly tacky. As you approach your day today, I hope that you, too, can see it as perfectly tacky. I will be heading into work today. I'm looking forward to meeting an artist from the Morganton area. He is coming to take a look at some of our Ceramics equipment that may be sent to the new Morganton Campus of NCSSM. Meanwhile, a morning on the trails is a great way to start the week.

Here's hoping that your day is perfectly tacky. Mine is already.



Friday, June 22, 2018

C. Growth Mindset, The Musician, The Teacher, and Career Fulfillment

In this, the third and final of my posts regarding career satisfaction, I want to say just a few words about the book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck.  This book has become an important professional development tool for educators across the US in recent years and has certainly influenced my thinking on the topic of career fulfillment.

Back in November, the counseling department at my school, the North Carolina School of Science and Math, presented a faculty in-service program that introduced this book and the concepts contained within to our faculty. As I listened to the presentation, I was compelled to purchase the book electronically (via Nook) and set it aside for future reading. This summer has provided the opportunity to dig into it and it has certainly helped to inform many of my thoughts about career fulfillment that I have been developing in recent weeks.

The in-service presentation was designed to give us a brief introduction the concept of growth mindset versus fixed mindset. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” writes Dweck. Alternatively, Dweck states, "In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb." As part of the in-service, we were encouraged to think about our own attitudes towards learning as well as those of our students. Are we as teachers promoting a growth mindset for our or are we settling for some sort of fixed mindset from both ourselves and our students?

So, this brings me back to the idea of career fulfillment, Maslow, and my life this summer.

First, I have to believe that all of the models of career fulfillment that I presented contain some sort of expectation of growth mindset.  Music educators who are most fulfilled believe that their abilities can be developed as can the abilities of their students.  We believe that through focused practice, students can get over hurdles and achieve great things.  The trick for us is to extend that idea and practice to ourselves!  We must continue to believe that we can get better.  We can become better teachers, better musicians, better scholars, better colleagues. Fulfilled educators believe that small failures are opportunities for greater achievement.  If a pedagogical technique doesn't work, try another tactic.  If we are feeling a bit static, find a way to become dynamic.  (I love the concept that, "A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest, stays at rest."  It is one of my great motivators in cycling and in life!) With a growth mindset, we can find dynamics and fulfillment year after year throughout a long and successful career.

Next, doesn't this fit well with the ideas that Maslow presented?!  At the highest level of the the hierarchy of human needs lies self actualization which includes achieving ones full potential, creative activities, spontaneity and problem solving.  A growth mindset would lead to all of these activities and attitudes.  If we truly have a love of learning and a desire to be "better" we will certainly be self-actualized human beings.  Alternatively, a fixed mindset would be in direct contrast to all of these.  I have to believe that Dweck has spent some significant time in the study of Maslow and his theories!

Finally, there is direct personal application here.  A person with a growth mindset wakes up every day with a plan.  They truly believe that brains and talent are just the beginning.  Our lives present an opportunity to develop ideas, theories, skills, and accomplishments.  For teachers, the summer provides both the opportunity to regroup and rest, as well as the opportunity to create, develop, and accomplish.  Our lives during the school year are so busy.  There is something absolutely refreshing about waking up, having a second cup of coffee, getting some exercise, and then  attacking some new idea, some task that has been put off, or that interesting book that one just hasn't had time to read.

Today is the day that all of my colleagues at Interlochen are converging on the camp for the beginning of the 6 week summer arts camp.  I have thought of Interlochen a great deal today.  The first day back at camp for the summer is always exciting.   It is so awesome to reconnect with old friends and anticipate the important work (and play) of the summer.  My work there has been the source of many of my goals, musical ideas and new scholarship over the past 7 years.  This summer is different for me.  This year, I am waking up every day with a different set of goals.  I am developing curriculum for NCSSM.  I am practicing my violin.  I am writing.  I am reading.  I am also exercising and taking care of household and family tasks that I have let slide a bit over the past 7 years. In the end, I am aspiring to grow and accomplish much.

I encourage each of you to set some goals for the summer.  Consider your mindset.  It is a growth or fixed mindset?  Do you feel like you are clicking at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs?  Are you fulfilled in your career?  If so, congratulations and keep up the good work!  If not, I truly hope that these posts have shed some light on your situation and perhaps have provided a framework for some changes that might get you a little bit closer to the goal of fulfillment.


Its All About People

Hi all!
I am pleased to let you know that I was recently featured with an interview on the Critical Pedagogy Electrified blog, also known as MusicEdLove.  This podcast is run by my friend, Angela Ammerman, professor of String Ed at the University of Tennessee at Martin.  I am on Episode 12 entitled, "It's All About People."

The interview mostly deals with my first year of teaching and the ups and downs of a first year string teacher.  It was fun to think about those early days in my career.  Although, I must admit, some of the details are a little bit fuzzy after 31 years!!   I hope you enjoy it.

I encourage you to check out the rest of her blog and podcasts as well.  They are fantastic!


Saturday, June 16, 2018

B. Maslow and a Conversation with My Dad

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my father over a cup of coffee at his place on the coast of North Carolina. I was telling him about the professional development session on Career Fulfillment I have been presenting lately and the positive audience response it has received. I feel in many ways that I have hit on a very important topic for music educators and teachers in general.  My Dad is a retired educator, having spent the majority of his career as a school superintendent  in western PA and enjoys a good conversation about education, educators, and the teacher's work environment. As he thought a little bit about my topic, he reminded me a little bit about his dissertation. My Dad earned his doctorate in the early 1970s from Penn State University. His dissertation was on Differences Between Parents' and Teachers' Perception of the Teacher's Role. He enthusiastically told me that during his review of the literature he encountered a great deal about Abraham Maslow and the "Hierarchy of Human Needs." He explained it to me briefly and I took a little bit of time to study some more on the topic. He told me that he felt it might have a little bit to do with my research and consideration of career fulfillment. I remembered studying a little bit about Maslow in my psychology courses back in the early 1980's, but really couldn't recall the details of the scholar or the models that he presented.  Of course, my Dad studied Maslow's theory as it relates to Labor Relations.  I am more interested in how it relates to career fulfillment for musicians and music educators.

Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 –1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. Maslow was a psychology professor at Alliant International University, Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people.  Maslow stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of.  The growth of self-actualization refers to the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always 'becoming' and never remains static in these terms. In self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them. (Wikipedia)

Sound like what we are touching on here?
Maslow also stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

As I begin to superimpose the Maslow theories over the models that I had encountered regarding career fulfillment, it became clear that the two were very closely related. This notion of always becoming and never being static is, in my opinion, one of the great keys to career fulfillment. We, as teachers, must always be seeking out new challenges, new ideas, new motivations, and new strategies for delivering information and inspiring students. There have been several times already this summer that I have personally noted that it is important for me to "remain relevant" as I am not doing any hands-on conducting or teaching like I have for the past several years.  I don't want to be or become static!!  I feel like that relevance is strongly related to the notion of "becoming." If we are always becoming, we will remain a work-in-progress. We will remain relevant.  Sometimes artists refer to themselves as "creators."  Perhaps "creators" are always "becoming."

Maslow's hierarchy of human needs looks something like this:  At the most basic level, humans seek their physiological needs such as food and water.  After those needs are met, they move to safety needs like shelter and protection.  When those are met, they move to needs of belonging and love such as friendships and intimate relationships.  (Sidebar: I am fascinated by the show, Alone, on the History Channel.  10 participants see who can survive in the wilderness alone for the longest. After studying this theory, I can see that they work their way up the hierarchy of human needs.  First, they take care of food and water, then shelter and safety.   The need for belonging and love is often where  many of the participants in the show falter.  They are spending day after day alone in the wilderness and simply can't go on.  They desperately miss their family and their need for belonging and love causes them to "tap out.")  Next, humans move to esteem needs such as prestige and accomplishments.  When humans have met all of these needs, they  move to self fulfillment needs including creative activities and living to their full potential.  If we are truly self fulfilled, at the top of the needs hierarchy, humans will accept themselves and others for who they are, are free to recognize the needs and desires of others, and are capable of responding to the uniqueness of people and situations rather than responding to the demands of reality.

So, really, all of this career fulfillment talk for music educators is about the very highest level of human needs.  We are talking about how teachers (1) achieve and maintain their full potential and (2) remain active in creative activities.  Well, one of the areas is clear. Music Educators must pursue music-making activities throughout their career to continue to find fulfillment in the classroom.  The process of teaching music can be a creative activity, but I believe that pedagogy and teaching is more strategy-oriented.  Of course, we utilize all that we know about music when teaching, but I think we are obligated to keep creating music outside of the classroom.  Music creation is how musicians continue to become. We are still a musical work in progress. I know from personal experience that when I am pursuing my own music-making, I feel more fulfilled, both in and outside the classroom.

Pursuing and achieving one's full potential in and throughout a career in music education can be a bit more elusive.  How does that happen?  I think that there are several steps to this.  First, one must be self motivated to succeed at a high level.  We can't be happy with "good enough."  Young teachers can find this motivation for seeking their fullest potential by seeking out mentors that exemplify those ideals.  When strong, fulfilled mentors are are present for young teachers, they in turn become fulfilled experienced teachers.  Maintaining one's full potential for experienced teachers can be tough.  The "been there, done that" mentality can be tough to overcome.  This is where new professional development activities can be a motivator.  Experienced teachers must find new activities, strategies, goals, and methods that allow them to continue to work and teach at their full potential.  This is where self motivation is really important!  All of this is to say that reaching one's full potential is vital to a sense of fulfillment no matter the level of experience.  The trick is to stay in the race!!  We must always seek to be better!

In the end, I really appreciate my Dad reminding me about Maslow and his theories.  This is definitely all interrelated.  I hope this has added a layer to your thought process on the topic of career fulfillment as a music educator. 

Are you continuing to pursue creative activities?  This summer I am working on some recording projects and trying to enhance my improvisation skills with some new ideas and methodologies.  I am committed to practicing every day.  Are you committed to reaching your full potential?  My professional development at the Conn-Selmer Institute and a commitment to reading this summer will help me with this. (I will write about some of the books I am reading in a later post.)

Let me know your thoughts on this and I wish you all the best as you reach for your full potential and continue to pursue creative activities while you are at the top of the Hierarchy of Human Needs!!

And, Happy Fathers Day, Dad!  Thanks for all of the great conversations over the years.  Thanks for always encouraging me to think and reach for my best.