2018-2019. What a year! What a crazyass year of personal highs and lows, professional highs and frustrations, and just an overall blur. Allow me to re-cap.
The fall started out with me preparing to defend my doctoral dissertation. I have to apologize to all of my first semester students because I definitely was not as present as I should have been for them. There. I put it out there. My mind was definitely centered around finishing school. I flew down to Arizona in October and successfully defending my dissertation: "Do I Really Want to Do This Now?" Negotiations of Sexual Identity and Professional Identity: An Intergenerational Collaboration with Six Gay and Lesbian K-12 Music Educators. My committee, Drs. Marg Schmidt, Jill Sullivan, Sandy Stauffer, and Stephen Paparo were amazing. I could not have asked for a more supportive committee.
I’m really proud of this work, despite the fact that every time I take a glance at the document I find a mistake. Every. Single. Time. That aside, I have this thing that I wrote, that I labored over, and finished. It took about everything out of me, but I came out the other side a bit smarter, a bit wiser, and with a fucking Ph.D. To that I celebrated. I flew back to Arizona in December to walk at graduation and celebrate with family and some of my closest humans.
That felt great and I was proud of myself. I also recongize that this is something to be proud of, because it is a lot of damn work. Nobody can prepare you for what doctoral work does to your brain. It mentally screws with you in ways that makes you wonder what the hell you have been doing and what you are doing to deserve this kind of cognitive punishment. (I’m really selling this well, aren’t I?) Perhaps that’s why such a small percentage of the population obtains such a degree (and a smaller percentage of women).
I often pump up the work of my students, because they kick ass. They do amazing things, but I have been working on feeding myself some self-love as well, and there was a period where I was thinking to myself “I don’t deserve this.” What the actual F?? As in, I don’t deserve this degree. Good grief, right? Well, I put in the time, and a helluva lot of work, and I am a changed person (for the better) because of it, so I am patting myself on the back.
Enough about me and my degree (only so much self-congratulations can happen, right?). In November I found out I was awarded a grant from the Give a Note Foundation, which was super amazing. $4,000 to spend in the classroom. I am starting a new class this upcoming year, Sound Production, and used the money to buy some fun new toys for that class. I am SUPER pumped for that class and there is a huge interest from the students (which is why the class was conceived in the first place). However, possibly even cooler than that, was a connection I made via Give a Note to Orangewood Guitars. They saw some social media tag about the work I do and reached out to see if I use ukuleles. At the time I didn’t, but OF COURSE I am interested in bringing as much music making experiences in the school, so they sent me a classroom set of Ukuleles. WHAT? And no strings attached (pun not intended) The kids absolutely LOVED these fun instruments, and I am now completely re-thinking the curriculum for next year, because #evolve.
This spring was a riot. Jazz 2 (previous posts that I haven’t finished writing about) created their entire spring concert on their own. They wrote/arranged/taught their tunes and we played a whole concert of their music. I say “wrote” very loosely because “notation” was per the person. Everything was done by ear. It was the riskiest damn thing I have ever done as an educator, but it was probably one of the most rewarding because they did all the work, and they were more invested in this concert than any other show we had done. Not to mention, let’s talk about community. Their willingness to discuss, offer advice, and be SUPER vulnerable just made this the tightest-knit band I have ever worked with. They are awesome, and I am so going to miss working with them.
To the last point and something that has become a trend in my professional life. I am moving down a different path. I am going to be a full-time secondary general music teacher next year-no performing groups. Meaning no jazz band. This was actually an easier decision than you might think because my passion as evolved to creating as many musical experiences for students as possible, and for that to occur, something has to give. By adding Sound Production, I needed to let a class go, and our admin added .2 to our orchestra teacher’s FTE, so that worked out perfectly. I spent 15 years teaching jazz and while it is one of my foundational passions, I need to let room in for something else. And, I am still involved with jazz education through our state level groups and adjudicating.
I will spend another post talking about this summer, and some exciting things happening, but I wanted to close with my main goal for this summer. Taking care of me and getting mentally healthy again. Teachers are natural givers, and we hear this all the time, but in order for us to give we must allow for some self-love. Therapy is excellent for this and there is absolulely no shame in talking with someone who will listen without judgement, and offer a different perspective. Therapists are great because they don’t know you, so you have to invite them in, and that is where the work starts. My therapist is great and we are working on all sorts of things, but the main thing is loving myself and how to put up boundaries. By boundaries, I mean, allowing myself to say “no” because the activity won’t necessarily improve my well-being at this point. So, this summer, I have a very free and open schedule, which is pretty amazing and causes a bit of anxiety at times, but then I think about how much I get to do with that time, versus having to do in that time. Wow...that is so liberating.
Hopefully I won’t wait another 6 months to write a post! In the meantime, take a walk, dip your toes in a lake, river, or ocean, smile a lot, and tell yourself that you are a badass.
After several great weeks of groups working together to come up with their own tunes, then sharing their works-in-progress with the rest of the band, we had our first day of co-teaching and co-learning. The first groupt to go was Auguste, Meredith, Sam, and Owen. They created a 12 bar blues that is in in 6/4 and has two measures of 3/2 on the V chord. Pretty damn hip if I do say so myself. And because they were NOT notating their music, I suspect this freedom allowed them to create something a bit more involved.
SO, they started teaching the band the melody the same way that I teach ear-tunes: note by note. They played a note (well, Owen did because he felt the most confident with the tune), and the band would noodle around until they got it. Then the next note, and so on and so forth. The students would get a few notes down and then Owen would play the melody in time and in rhythm, and the band responded. It took about 15 minutes for the band to *roughly* learn the tune, which really is no time at all. We asked Owen to play it by himself so the students could record it on their devices so they can listen to it and practice it at home. By the way, I also learned this tune WITH the students. It's important to be in that same vulnerable place that the students are in to show that we too can make mistakes and it is ok.
I shared with the students that this is a really messy, uncomfortable, and chaotic chaos, but that this is LEARNING and they are doing some pretty incredible work with this project. The rhythm section is already working on a pretty great intro for this tune to make it more interesting beyond the head chart. There are three other groups so there will be a total of four originals by the bands on our Jazz Central concert. I am not sure that I know of any other jazz band that has done something like this before.
I am still trying to figure how how we might go about notating this. When we I taught the band “Equinox” this past spring, it was all by ear, including the chord changes, and they performed it without music. I *think* we could do something similar-where they create their own lead sheets, but I am not sure yet. I will have to ask them what they think they might need. (Yes, I do ask the students their opinions and what they think might work best for them.)
I offer another look into the classroom in this video. Does it sound amazing? Well, as a proud teacher who watched this unfold in about 15 minutes, I would say so, but I am biased.
November 30th update: Wouldn't you know it-we played through the tune today and it sounded even better than this video. So what that tells me is that they either listened to the tune, listened and practiced, or it incubated over the past 24 hours and some lightbulbs went off :) Yay learning!