Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Midwest Clinic Thoughts - Jacquelyn Dillon-Krass

Hi all.

I want to give you a little insight into a bit of the history of the field of string education today. On Tuesday late afternoon at the Midwest Clinic, there was a very special session entitled "A Conversation with Jacquelyn Dillon-Krass." Jacquelyn Dillon has had a profound influence on my career and teaching and it was really wonderful to witness this celebration of a career that has spanned over 50 years. She is professor of String Education at Wichita State University and has had tremendous success in public school teaching, university level teaching and teacher training, the music industry, and association leadership.

I first became aware of Jackie when my Secondary Methods of Music Education Professor, Dr. John Keuhn at Indiana University of PA, handed me a text book entitled "How to Design and Teach a Successful String and Orchestra Program," by Jacquelyn Dillon. I read the book with interest and gained so much direction from it. Shortly afterward, as a beginning teacher in 1988, I attended a session at the MENC Eastern Division Conference in Philadelphia where Jackie was presiding. Following the session, I stayed around for a few minutes hoping to have an opportunity to speak with her. When we met, I took the opportunity to ask her, "How does someone like me (a first year teacher) get to be someone like you? (a noted authority in her field)" Jackie thought for a few minutes and said, "Scott, it is really just one word - write. Take every opportunity to be published and share your ideas with the profession. There are folks out there that are interested." That one word - write - really changed my professional life. Within a few weeks I had submitted an article to be published in the PMEA Journal and have tried to share my ideas on strings, pedagogy, and music every day since then. Her one word made the difference for me.

I have had the opportunity on several occasions to thank her for that advise and Jackie Dillon has helped me in several other ways since that time. She is a caring teacher and a knowledgeable pedagogue. Moreover, she will share her ideas with you in hopes of making you, your students and younger teachers, better at what we do.

Jackie shared many of the concepts that she holds dear yesterday and I want to share a few of them with you. They are wonderful guides for any string teacher. But many of them are simply important guides for students and professionals in any field.

1. Write and share what you know. Don't keep it to yourself.

2. Everybody gets better. Just try. We learn from trial and error. Encourage others to try, too. They learn from trial and error, as well. (Referring to learning and teaching beginning strings - but applicable everywhere!)

3. There is no perfect method book. Great teachers make method books great. Not vice-versa.

4. Every great teacher needs a bag of tricks. You only get that bag filled up by watching and learning from others. Go to educational sessions. Go to conferences. Seek out mentors.  Learn from those that are willing to share!

5. Music MUST be expressive. Right notes and rhythms only mean something if the music is going somewhere.

6. Make your music you own. Don't just play what is on the page. Express beyond the markings.

7. EVERY student CAN play in tune. Don't settle for less. (Generally - every student can succeed. don't settle for less.)

8. The accomplishment that she is most proud of is her students. (Me, too.) She said - "You know, we need our students. My students are my best friends. There are times that we prop them up and help them. And, there are times that we need them to prop us us. They do and they will. Don't forget that."

9. How do you find good kids for the orchestra? Go find kids for the orchestra. Numbers matter. Get a bunch of kids and they WILL be good!

As I read back over these comments, I am even more struck by how universal these ideas are and can be. May be one of these ideas will strike you today. I hope so.

I have been blessed by my relationship with Jacquelyn Dillon-Krass and I hope that maybe in some small way, you will be, too.


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