I just finished coordinating the New England Band Directors Institute at Plymouth State University (NEBDI). I can tell you it was an incredible experience for me on a few different levels. To have my DMA teacher there as one of the clinicians was both a bit intimidating, and also very enlightening and humbling. If you have read anything I have written to this point you know that I firmly believe that learning is a life long project, and once we stop, we might as well give up teaching, or making music. But that, and a number of other things were driven home these past few days as clinic after clinic, by wonderful teacher after wonderful teacher, made it obvious, there is so much more to learn.
Disclaimer: If you are writing a paper about your experience at NEBDI for my graduate courses, you can’t borrow any of my thoughts… Oh wait, no, please do. Borrow away if you want; if you feel any of my thoughts hit home. You see, that is the point, isn’t it? Create your way, by observing others, listening to others, letting people critique you, and by finding your way on your own, succeed or fail.
It was awe inspiring to see over 100 teachers let go of themselves and experiment, and take chances, and put themselves out there, and in uncomfortable positions. Have you ever done that? Have you let yourself be vulnerable? If not, then you are missing out on some life changing education. Your students need you to take chances. Don’t you ask your students to take chances? Lead by example. “But what if I fail?”, well, excellent! I challenge you to fail in front of your students, and to be honest about that failure.
I can’t thank the clinicians enough for coming to NEBDI this summer, and they were all very inspiring. But one image, sent to me by a friend at the institute, summed up the experience for me, and that is the image attached to this post. I got a chance to sit with my DMA conducting teacher William Berz, from Rutgers University, and just talk. If you don’t know Dr. Berz, you should get to know him! What he has done for music education and for the wind ensemble movement can’t even be put in to words. His recordings with the Rutgers Wind Ensemble are to be admired, and I can tell you that most of my best musical experiences happened under his baton in that group. Just a brief conversation before a clinic let me know, yes I had learned a lot, and Ishould feel confident in what I do. But it also showed me that he will always be teaching me, and I, thankfully, have him to teach me.
I have rambled on long enough, and I will leave you with two questions:
1: When is the last time you failed?
2: What did you learn today?