Classical MPR's Teacher Feature highlights the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.
Patrick Henry High School
Who or what inspired you to become a music teacher?
It was my fallback career just in case my quest for rock stardom didn't work out. It turns out I was a much better teacher than a rock star.
Where did you go to college?
Hamline University for undergrad and graduate school. (I am applying to the University of Minnesota's PhD program for music education for the fall of 2014).
What would you say is your primary instrument?
I am a classically trained tenor — but most of my music happens with an acoustic guitar in my hands and a piano nearby.
What classes do you teach?
I teach grades nine through 12. I teach two sections of a very hands-on Music Explorations Class for 9th grade students which includes the found-sound percussion ensemble The Junkyard Symphony. I teach a class called Creative Composition where students build, compose for, and perform on original hand made instruments. We have a start-up Drum Line that I am leading, I direct the Concert Choir, and I teach a Popular Music Songwriting course — everything from country to metal to hip-hop.
Do you direct any ensembles?
The Patrick Henry High School (PHHS) Drum Line; The Junkyard Symphony (think Stomp for high schoolers); the Creative Composition class, where the kids write, perform and record their own original music in genres from hip hop to country to punk; and The PHHS Concert Choir.
In what ways do you try to encourage your students to appreciate and participate in music?
Music is a performing art. You must make it to truly understand it. I work hard to provide opportunities for all students to create amazing music — not just the kids in the traditional ensembles of band, choir, and orchestra. Those programs are wonderful and should be in every school, but I believe schools also need to offer classes that speak to the musical tastes and traditions of a broader spectrum of their populations.
Where do you see music education fitting into the broader educational spectrum?
Music can change the world — look at the role music played in the American Civil Rights Movement and in the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement. Let's teach students about music's power and teach them the skills to express themselves confidently with sound.
Personally, music has brought me so much joy — my family, my career, my hobbies. I think that all students deserve a chance to find out if music can do that for them as well.
How does music education help or enhance other curricular areas?
How do other curricular areas help or enhance one's music study is the question.
What's one of the most memorable moments you've had while teaching music?
Directing the 660 student-voice mass choir at the 2012 Minneapolis Public Schools' Viva City Fine Arts Festival. It was such a beautiful sound and sight. The joy and the sense of community were palpable; I was moved to tears.
Do you have a story of an experience where music education made a difference in a student's life?
A middle school student, who spent the day rehearsing with the mass choir for that Viva City concert, was picked up afterward by his mother. Upon entering the car, he exclaimed, "That was the BEST day of my LIFE so far."
It was one of mine, too.
Do you participate in music outside the classroom?
I met my wife singing in the Oratorio Society of Minnesota while performing Mozart. We now sing together in a folky-pop band call Potluck and the Hot Dishes.
I am also the resident composer for the educational web-design firm Eduweb, based in St. Paul, Minn.
If you were to host an on-air program at Classical MPR, what would be the first piece of music you'd play?
Aaron Copland's version of the Shaker tune, "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring.
What is it about the piece that makes it one of your favorites?
It is wonderful melody — one I have loved my whole life. (It was sung at our wedding). It reminds me to focus on what is really important.
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As part of Classical MPR's educational programming, we are highlighting the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.
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