It is Saturday, January 23, 2016, and I am sitting in my office at home thinking about the presentations I would have been giving at UNCG's Southeast String Festival and Conference had we not experienced this huge intersection with winter weather this weekend. Sadly, the conference was cancelled for this year and those of us that were slated to speak have been booked for the 2017 conference already. I look forward to that experience and to offering my session at that time. Meanwhile, I had solicited participation in my informal survey as part of my preparation for that talk. I promised that I would provide some information here regarding the session following today's conference. That said, I want you all to know that I also hope to present this session in the future at an ASTA conference, and continue to develop it for presentations at NAfME and perhaps Midwest Clinic conferences if proposals are accepted. My colleague, NCSSM Music Instructor Philip Riggs, and I intend to develop this further and add a few twists to it for future presentations.
With that in mind, I will simply outline a little bit of what I put together for the session here, and give a more detailed look at the model that I have created on Finding Fulfillment in Your Career in String (music) Education . For the session, I have pulled together six different models of fulfillment from a variety of resources. One of those models was a Venn diagram that made its way around Facebook several months ago. Another is detailed in the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Still another is outlined in the book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung . Another is drawn from the CNBC hit series the Profit. Finally, there are two others that grow from a variety of personal perspectives: one that I call the Organizational Model and another that I call the Teacher/Artist/Performer Model. The Teacher/Artist/Performer Model is the one that I can really take individual credit for. So, let me outline that model for you here.
My life, experience, and career in string education has certainly been an interesting journey. I definitely feel that I have had one of the most fulfilling experiences that I could possibly have had. I don't know that I set out to be fulfilled in the beginning. But, I do know that over the years I've made a number of decisions and developed a number of philosophies that have led me to be able to look back over the past 30 years with a sense of true fulfillment. When I began working on this session, I sat down and thought about the areas of my professional and personal life that I find most fulfilling as a music educator. After all, if I feel fulfilled, perhaps there is a model here that I can share with others. I began jotting down various criteria of fulfillment that I have experienced. Over the ensuing weeks and months, I have tested this model out with my experience on a day in and day out basis. At this point I feel pretty confident that I can share the model that I've come up with as a sort-of personal story.
To set this model up just a little bit, I'd like to tell you a bit about my week last week. I came home on Friday night and said to my wife, “I just finished one of the most fulfilling weeks that I have ever had as a string educator.” How could that possibly be? It wasn't a particularly special week. There were no major performances. I wasn't given any awards. And, I really don't think there was any major recognition for me other than my own recognition that it was a great week. What could possibly have been involved?
On Monday I had taught my regular classes of two sections of Classical Piano and Guitar and my Recording Technology class. In each of these classes I felt like I was really connecting with students. They were meeting their personal goals and enjoying the interaction that we shared. As part of my Piano and Guitar class, I had encouraged students to consider the music theory assignments they were working on and apply the information to performance on their instruments. This became a catalyst for some wonderful conversation and interaction as well as some real “aha” moments. A number of the students thanked me for drawing their attention to this concept and I really appreciated their remarks. In my recording class, we were working on creative recording projects and there was a good spirit of energy in the room as kids prepared for this exciting assignment and sharing it with their classmates. On Tuesday, we had another round of Piano and Guitar with similar results and an evening orchestra rehearsal focusing on Dvorak’s Symphony No 8, 4th movement. everyone was in seats early for rehearsal , participated fully, and at the end of the evening we were ready for our performance scheduled for the following Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Wednesday in rehearsal, I took some time to tell the students about this session that I was preparing and their reactions were very favorable. Then, I invited a student who had attended a master class the evening before, missing rehearsal, to share what he had learned with the rest of the class. This was a springboard to a wonderful conversation about the Alexander Technique and how many of the topics covered intersected with concept I had outlined in orchestra in the previous months. This again made for an amazing class. Finally, I shared this session with my colleague, Adam Sampieri, Drama Instructor at my school and he really affirmed my work. We had a deep and meaningful discussion as a result to end to the day. Thursday was similar to Tuesday in Classical Piano and Guitar. My recording students presented their projects to the class and were involved in a really cool self-assessment activity. Then, after school I attended a teacher award ceremony and celebrated the accomplishments of several distinguished colleagues at NCSSM. Following that, I was involved in a strategic planning meeting where we had an invigorating discussion about real world experiences and the future of our institution. Friday brought another wonderful orchestra rehearsal and some opportunities for me to finish up some paperwork in my office and reconnect with a colleague who had been out the previous week. I also moved a ton of furniture and prepared for a variety of events that were scheduled that weekend in our facility. I also heard several individual students play their regional orchestra audition piece for me prior to their upcoming audition on Saturday. Incidentally, I spent all day Saturday at Regional Orchestra Auditions as did many of my colleagues. There were many great collegial conversations and reconnections throughout the day. I came home on Saturday evening exhausted but invigorated from a very fulfilling week of work.
As I reflected on my week, I realized that my week had encompassed all of the criteria in the model that I had created and had been sharing with students and colleagues. What an amazing revelation. I was living my model. So, what is involved in the teacher artist performer model of career fulfillment? Fulfillment in this model is based on the following criteria:
• Individual Relationships (with students)
• Ensemble satisfaction (Team climate)
• Ensemble satisfaction (Performance Caliber)
• Professional Growth
• Personal Artistic Satisfaction
• Professional Relationships
Each of these criteria had been met during my week. My interaction with and relationships with individual students had been off the charts. I have built my Classical Piano and Guitar class in such a way that individual relationships are the foundation of the class. And, I realized many years ago that at my institution, individual relationships really have to come first. I was completely satisfied with the climate in my ensemble throughout the week. We had productive rehearsals, students were invested, and there was a real satisfaction in this for me. Also, the performance caliber of my ensemble was wonderful. I love the repertoire that we are working on and I believe the students do as well. I had numerous opportunities for professional growth, including working on this session. I felt really good about the work I was doing and the things I was learning, and how I can apply them to my classroom. While I didn't have any violin performances during the week, I was finding strong artistic satisfaction in my conducting throughout the week and knew that there would be conducting opportunity on Monday, right around the corner. Finally, through discussions, regional orchestra auditions, and celebrations, my professional relationships with colleagues were extraordinary throughout the week. I felt fulfilled. My model held up.
In the days following the week, I had several conversations with other colleagues about their level of fulfillment. It is been interesting to learn that I can pinpoint each of these criteria after talking with a fulfilled colleague. I can also pinpoint the criteria that are missing in a colleague's experience if they are less than fulfilled. How about you? How do these criteria resonate with you? Or, is there another criterion that I have missed? Think of your most fulfilling day, week or year of work. Have you met each of these criteria? Think of your least fulfilling day, week, or year of work. Which of these criteria was missing? Can you work to enhance that which is least fully met? I do believe that I have built a career on this factors, albeit unknowingly. These are the things that I care about on a daily basis and have pursued. (Obviously there are others, but these jump out.)
I value your reaction. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment. And, I wish you all a fulfilling day, week, year, career. I hope to see you at a conference in the future!