What if

I grew up in the Texas music education system, went to music school at Indiana University, and have been teaching music for the past few years. These are some thoughts that have been roaming my mind lately. I share them in hopes that you share similar feelings. It's helpful for people to see that others are on their side.

 

What if kids learned to make the music they listen to?

 

What if kids weren't forced to follow a strict curriculum?

 

What if kids could learn to compose and arrange music in school?

 

What if kids could create their own bands with the support of their teachers?

 

What if music festivals featured 6th-12th grade artists?

 

What if high school fight songs were remixed by their students?

 

What if a 7th grader composed a piece and her band played it? Imagine how empowered she would feel.

 

What if kids less interested in performance could contribute by arranging and composing?

 

What if kids that can't sit still were allowed to make dance music?

 

What if results weren't measured with "1st Divisions" but with smiles from the audience?

 

What if kids weren't looking to beat other schools at a music competition, but wanted to collaborate with them?

 

What if music students traded etudes for remixes?

 

What if bands had guitar players not only in their jazz bands?

 

What if the star athletes looked up to the star musicians at their schools?

 

What if schools employed as many music teachers as coaches?

 

What if music education didn't emphasize excellence and competition, but instead fostered creativity, enthusiasm, and community?

 

What are your “what ifs”? How can you make it happen?

You Are Not Alone: Part One

You might feel as though you are stuck in your current position. Like the system is too massive for you to make any changes. You may feel alone, helpless, as though the status quo has too much momentum for you to affect it. I've felt this way. I've had 14-hour days of teaching band only to drive home completely spent. I’ve felt as though I was trapped in a never-ending cycle of wake, teach, commute, repeat. On those nights, I would fantasize about quitting and running away, perhaps to live on a peaceful beach somewhere. In my fantasy, I would watch my stress float away as I gazed at the waves rolling in and out.

For three years, I taught percussion full-time. I taught lessons, ensembles, and masterclasses all day long. I went to marching band competitions on the weekends, I stayed at the schools late into the night. I was up at 5 am everyday for morning rehearsal, and I became a kid-dodging ninja as I walked through the hectic halls of five different campuses in one day. Part of it I loved. Seeing my students everyday, joking with them as we set up for class. I loved working on music together, I loved getting the chills during a powerful musical moment.

BUT...

I was always seeing the shortcomings, the problems, the ways teachers weren’t making the most of the opportunities. The curriculum was lacking, and there were so many ways we could have been teaching better, smarter, more powerfully. I quit my post a month ago and I’m just barely starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still dim, but it is glorious. Every single day, I keep meeting people that share the same feelings. They’re fired up about firing up kids. I talk to music educators all over that want to change the way music education works. I was surprised to talk to people who wish they could change this very thing. But even more surprising is how many of them there are. They are new teachers and old teachers, lesson teachers and fine arts directors. The number of people that want to change our system is massive.

So why aren't we doing it? Why aren't we banding together and making changes? Why aren't we making new ideas come to life? I think it's because we're scared. So before I run out of breath (I typed this whole thing while holding my breath).

Do you want to change music education?

What are you afraid of?

Mr. Haun, out...

So, I quit my job teaching percussion private lessons just the other day.

 

Why? Because I love music and teaching music and I want to do it in a way that feels sincere. I want to be passionate every day that I'm working. I want to have real connections with my kids and I want them to feel the POWER of MUSIC.

 

I’ve been teaching percussion full time for 3 years. Loving it, and dreading it. Loving the connections with students, watching them grow, and sharing music. But I’ve dreaded some things too.

 

Why I quit:

  • I’m done practicing for kids that don’t even enjoy it.

  • I’m done being a brain connected to another brain, transacting concepts.

  • I’m done teaching notes instead of music.

  • I’m done critiquing miniscule aspects that zero people feel.

  • I’m done letting an antiquated, rigid, ego-centric education model determine my course.

  • I’m done being gloomy as I teach.

 

I learned mountains through these 3 years and I wouldn’t trade any of it. Really, I wouldn’t. I sincerely value the challenges I faced. The challenges sometimes made me gloomy. I learned how to make change but more importantly, I learned acceptance. I learned that my resistance to the situation was the real source of gloom.

 

I’m bursting at the seams to be able to:

  • Teach passionately.

  • Unleash the vast creativity of the kids.

  • Unlock the inner voice of the kids.

  • Facilitate growth on many levels.

  • Connect students with other creative students.

 

I have barely any income right now, I'm in debt and I don't have anything lined up. I still don’t have a place to live starting August 1. But I'm not worried. I know that if i work hard, work smart, and share what I feel strongly about, things are going to come together in amazing ways.

 

I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish this. I can use all the help I can get. I’ve been humbled time and time again these last 3 years. I’ve learned that the more I ask for help, the more things happen in ways so beautiful I couldn’t have imagined them.

 

1 year ago today, I stood in front of 100 of my dearest percussion students. I was saying goodbye to them after 2 years teaching them. It was very hard to leave them, but I felt like I had to explore other parts of music teaching and music making. I was called away from them to Austin, TX. I did not take this decision lightly, and I wanted them to know. I cried when I left those kids, they cried.

 

I stood in front of them, holding my speech I had scribbled on a piece of paper 5 minutes earlier. I started with a joke, then I told them about my experience teaching them. I showed them what it meant. I showed them the things most important to me. I told them what I value, what I wanted them to value in themselves. I cried like a baby, trying to deliver my speech.  After they roared in applause to keep me going I finished my speech with a powerful call to action. “Risk being seen, in all your glory”.

 

I have never been in the habit of acting for kids. I try to be real with them. I want trust. I practice what I preach. I was risking sharing what I value in life, I was risking crying in front of a room full of people, but I did it cause I felt so strongly that I just simply had to do it. I was taking the risk to be seen in all of my glory.

 

So now, once again, I’m risking it. I have barely any money, car, or home, but I’m running full speed ahead. I want to find ways to share this spark in me. I want truth. I want passion. I’m going to share music passionately with others. I’m going to show others what they’re capable of. I’m going to be a creative spark plug.