Not on the Test!

Mar 14 2008

For students and parents who may be stressed out over testing, here’s a lullaby for the times. Grammy Award-winning children’s artist Tom Chapin offers the “Not on the Test” song and video to raise awareness about the importance of music education in all classrooms and to express concern about what is missing from American public education. “Not on the Test,” with music and lyrics by Chapin and his long-time collaborator John Forster, and produced by PST Records, can be downloaded at www.notonthetest.com.

Additional information and advocacy links can be found here.

What does teaching, writing, arranging, authoring, performing, recording, consulting, and publishing music all have in common? For me, they are entrepreneurial endeavors that have become branches in a diverse career firmly rooted in Music Education.

Attributes of Music Educator

    Music educators are skilled!

We are trained to teach all aspects and genres of music. We are usually well versed in any number of musical instruments, and teach in a variety of music educational settings including classroom, ensemble, and private lesson. As educators, we are constantly striving to develop fun, interactive, age-appropriate lesson plans and outcome-based assessment goals for music education programs K-12. This command of the language and practice of music, and its application to the educational development of students, is a powerful foundation that will support a wide variety of entrepreneurial endeavors in music for the entrepreneur.

    Music educators are resourceful!

We have to be. For many of us, the weekly is daunting: teach 500+ students weekly, eight classes a day, going room-to-room with only a pushcart, and many times doing it all with no budget to purchase instruments or music. This common scenario taps into one’s resourcefulness and begins to set the stage for innovative, entrepreneurial pursuits.

    Music educators have effective communication skills!

As a music educator, you’ll get very good at public speaking, crowd control, and “thinking on your feet.” You’ll gain the ability to read your audience, anticipate questions, identify needs, and make appropriate adjustments to your performances and presentations—in real time. Effective communication skills are critical to articulate entrepreneurial ideas and advocate support.

Music educators have what it takes to be entrepreneurs. The combination of expert skills in music and music education, resourcefulness, and effective communication skills provide fertile ground for the development of an aspiring entrepreneur.

Over the course of the past 20+ years, the opportunities that have come my way and the preparedness I have felt to pursue those opportunities are due in large part to the years I spent as a classroom music educator and choral director.

So, What Is An Entrepreneur?

Simply stated, an entrepreneur is someone who identifies a “need” or a problem, and then figures out a solution. Of course, comprehensive goals, strategies, and execution plans must be developed and implemented in order to achieve success with any entrepreneurial endeavor, but it all begins with a “need.”

What Are Some Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Music Education?

Entrepreneurial opportunities available to music educators abound. They include writing and arranging band or choral music to serve a program’s needs; authoring music education methods; writing articles on new approaches to music education; writing reviews in trade publications for new products and services; music industry board work to forge innovative partnerships; presenting new approaches to the profession at State and National conferences; consulting and advising for music industry manufacturers and publishers who develop music education products and publications; and the list goes on. These entrepreneurial activities provide professional development opportunities for the music educator-entrepreneur, service to the profession, and potentially, additional streams of income to fund a program, cause, or additional entrepreneurial endeavors.

Where To Begin?

Look at your current teaching situation. What are some of the needs not being met? What can your experience, insight, and skill set offer to address these “needs” for your immediate situation—and potentially—for hundreds of other music educators? How far can you take it? How far can you take it? Start by making a list: “Immediate Need” followed by, “Entrepreneurial Opportunities.” Here is an example:


Immediate Need:

A third grade teacher is planning a 100 day celebration at school and would like to do some cross-curricular planning and activities with the music program.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities:
a. Write a “100 Day Song” for the class, arrange for two-part choral, seek a music education publisher to make the piece available to schools.

b. Write a short musical for the third-grade class incorporating elements from the 100 day math curriculum. Seek a music education publisher to make the work available to all schools.

Take stock of your skills and address one of your program’s immediate needs with an entrepreneurial spirit. Find a solution to your immediate need and then and take it as far as you can. Remember, as a music educator, you have a solid foundation and the skills needed to branch out successfully in many different directions. Have fun exploring the possibilities and becoming a music educator-entrepreneur!

Email can be a challenging way to communicate for business. It’s an informal, fast-paced, text-based form of communication and can easily be misread.

In an online education environment, text-based communication can be challenging too. Constructive criticism can be difficult to read objectively when presented as text, and sometimes, what’s intended to be “constructive” can often be perceived as merely criticism.

At Berkleemusic, many of our instructors supplement text-based assignment critiques with narrated MP3 files, as a way to offer feedback and suggestions related to a student’s assignment post. For example, “You played it like this, [guitar] but if you changed this chord and that voicing to this, it would sound like [guitar].” Not only does the MP3 file help to further the student’s understanding of the lesson assignment, but it also conveys the helpful and encouraging tone of their instructor’s voice. This not easy to convey with text-based communication. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I believe an audio/MP3 file with spoken words and (in this case) music, is worth a thousand more!

This not only holds true for business and educational correspondence, but for important interpersonal communication as well.

Here’s an example.

Last week, at a holiday gathering, friends and family were upset about a very sick family member who is in the hospital in England. Communicating via phone was not an option. We decided to send her an MP3 greeting compilation. I set up a portable digital recording device called the Edirol R-09 in a quiet room, and family members took turns going in and recording heartfelt get-well wishes. They said what they needed to say, then I assembled the dozen-plus messages in Garageband, adjusted levels, added a background track of my own instrumental music, and sent the 10-minute MP3 file as an email attachment to England, where it was played at the patient’s bedside. The whole project took no more than an hour, and the effect this audio-based communication had on everyone involved was immeasurable.

With a portable digital recording device and/or a simple, free, cross-platform desktop recording/editing tool like Audacity or GarageBand (ships with the Mac), you can communicate effectively with audio files to colleagues and students, and perhaps even “say what you need to say” to a loved one.

Happy New Year!

Email can be a challenging way to communicate for business. It’s an informal, fast-paced, text-based form of communication and can easily be misread.

In an online education environment, text-based communication can be challenging too. Constructive criticism can be difficult to read objectively when presented as text, and sometimes, what’s intended to be “constructive” can often be perceived as merely criticism.

At Berkleemusic, many of our instructors supplement text-based assignment critiques with narrated MP3 files, as a way to offer feedback and suggestions related to a student’s assignment post. For example, “You played it like this, [guitar] but if you changed this chord and that voicing to this, it would sound like [guitar].” Not only does the MP3 file help to further the student’s understanding of the lesson assignment, but it also conveys the helpful and encouraging tone of their instructor’s voice. This not easy to convey with text-based communication. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I believe an audio/MP3 file with spoken words and (in this case) music, is worth a thousand more!

This not only holds true for business and educational correspondence, but for important interpersonal communication as well.

Here’s an example.

Last week, at a holiday gathering, friends and family were upset about a very sick family member who is in the hospital in England. Communicating via phone was not an option. We decided to send her an MP3 greeting compilation. I set up a portable digital recording device called the Edirol R-09 in a quiet room, and family members took turns going in and recording heartfelt get-well wishes. They said what they needed to say, then I assembled the dozen-plus messages in Garageband, adjusted levels, added a background track of my own instrumental music, and sent the 10-minute MP3 file as an email attachment to England, where it was played at the patient’s bedside. The whole project took no more than an hour, and the effect this audio-based communication had on everyone involved was immeasurable.

With a portable digital recording device and/or a simple, free, cross-platform desktop recording/editing tool like Audacity or GarageBand (ships with the Mac), you can communicate effectively with audio files to colleagues and students, and perhaps even “say what you need to say” to a loved one.

Happy New Year!