I finished up this week with my observation of eight different classes in the local school system so I can substitute teach while I’m looking for full-time work. I’ve visited the elementary school, the middle school and today the high school. I know that really good teachers reach kids and help them aspire to learn more or set goals for themselves and push forward despite obstacles.
I wonder what kind of teacher I would have made if I had majored in education? Sure, I teach music privately and have had over a dozen choirs and instrumental groups under my tutelage, and I hope that I have had positive impact on those I’ve coached and encouraged, but what if I had been teaching in the school system for the past twenty years? Would my enthusiasm have dwindled after the year-in and year-out standard curriculum? Would I have become bored or have relished the challenge of imparting an appreciation of music and fine arts to different class personalities? What if – as happened back when I was in school – the school board felt fine arts weren’t as important to a child’s development as sports, and it was repeatedly insinuated that the teachers in those departments were not teaching worthy classes and so funding was continually cut for those programs and salaries? I actually changed my music ed major after my first year because that was exactly the nonsense that was going on in the mid-80s when I was in college and it was told to us directly that if we wanted to be music ed majors, don’t expect to find full-time work because likely only part-time was going to be available due to local budgetting. If I’d have pursued it anyway and wound up working in a local school system back where I grew up, I’d have probably felt insulted, frustrated, unappreciated, and like my calling was so discriminated against by political boards that I would consider leaving the education field to pursue a different venue for my music gifts and abilities.
For years afterward, I used to kick myself and think that I needed to go back and get my education degree just for the purpose of proving I could really teach and impact lives with what God has gifted me in. But over the years, I’ve seen how God takes my willingness to be used and to share whatever I know to help others discover musical gifts of their own. I’ve watched kids get excited when they experience what happens when they work as a team for fantastic results in a handbell choir, or come out of their shell when they get their nerve up to sing a solo and I work with them to build confidence and expressiveness so they experience success and are more willing to take another chance and try again or try something new altogether. I’ve watched a vocal choir grow as a group when they’ve had lots of encouragement and learned difficult techniques and performed to a standard they didn’t know they could reach. I’ve watched shy novices on stage for the first time learning to sing and act in musical theatre productions I ran when no other community theatre group would give them a chance, and then after our successful theatre series, go en masse back to where they were previously ignored and sweep all the lead roles because they walked in with experience and confidence. These were my groups, my students, and they told me I made a difference in their self-outlook as to what they could achieve when someone encouraged them.
The Bible is full of references to music and of God’s people and angels singing songs of praise and worshiping Him through poetry, dance, musical instruments and simply the voice alone. If it’s mentioned so much in the Old Testament, the New Testament writers tell us numerous times that we should lift each other up with songs and music, and that the saints and angels before God’s throne sing without ceasing, God must think music is pretty important. I know I personally pray the best, or most freely I suppose is a better way to put it, musically – whether singing or praying through my fingers at the keyboard. Countless writers over the past centuries tell of music’s transcendant abilities to lift our hearts and souls and minds heavenward. Why it’s not more important in our schools has always eluded me.
I hope that throughout the music ministry I have been blessed to serve in, I can reach the end of my days and hear the Lord say, “well done, my good and faithful servant” about my willingness to share what I’ve been given, my “talents” to play on the word. Whether it’s sharing my gifts through “high church” liturgical music or simple chant on up through contemporary and GenX style of music, I hope I will make a positive difference using my annointing to point others toward the love of God through Jesus Christ.