Music Education

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who liked to sing… so, in 8th grade I started taking choir. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I had the same choir teacher for 5 years (she taught at the junior high as well as the high school) and she impacted my life in so many ways, so much deeper than music. She challenged me without making me realize she was challenging me. She made learning about the boring parts of music, like the theory and repetitive nature of learning a song note-for-note, fun. She listened and never talked down to me, or any of her students. But most importantly: she supported & believed in me.

My music teacher was an inspiration and made ME want to be a music teacher. I had a few bumps on the way, but when I finally had the opportunity to attend my 3rd year of college, music classes weren’t accessible to anyone who wasn’t accepted into the music program. I mean, you couldn’t even take a music history or theory 1 class without auditioning into the music department. I went through the tedious, day-long audition process, felt good about it afterward. Three weeks later, I got my rejection letter. 

Yup. Rejected from Grand Valley’s Music Program. 

Talk about a slap in the face. It’s not even a HUGE school like Michigan State or even Western Michigan! Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve auditioned in Lansing or Kalamazoo and commuted. 
The hubs came with me to my audition and believes the main focus of their vocal students is to feed them into the local Opera (my voice may be unique, but it’s not operatic) Who knows. It was a heck of a blow, and I questioned pretty much everything about myself. I had the genes for it (everyone on my dad’s side of the family sings and plays multiple instruments) but did I actually have talent? Were the people that claimed they loved my voice just being nice? It was a really tough thing to get over. I felt like I had lost a piece of my identity.

The hubs had my back, as always, and assured me I was better off not being a part of a snooty program like that. Then he told me how he is happy he didn’t turn his passion for music into his career, so he could always have fun with it and without it feeling like work. It is advice that has stuck with me. I gradually got some of my confidence back, decided that college wasn’t for me and hit the workforce for a few years before I became a full-time Mom.

Today, I’m looking at Music Education from a completely different perspective. We’ve always been a children’s music-free home: no Wiggles, Barney, etc allowed, although the occasional Sesame Street song has been known to creep onto my iPod. But, come on, Sesame Street is classic! 😉 I’ve already discussed how we’ve taken our children to concerts. We have been trying to expose our girls to music to them so they can simply absorb it, instead of forcing it on them. My girls have developed their own preferences and love to sing & dance along with the hubs & I when we jam or practice for choir. My youngest has a whole list of bedtime songs she likes both Daddy & Momma to sing before she goes to sleep. I do a Beatles medley, while the hubs does a killer Sinatra medley. I doubt many 2 yr olds can sing along to the old-school songs we sing, but ours can. 
So, now what? Well, when we were looking for schools to send our oldest to, a music program was vital to us. It wasn’t easy to find one, but we did. Unfortunately, it’s not in a public school, which is where both the hubs & I got our music educational roots. Don’t even get me started about how disappointing the public schools are here in Grand Rapids. Something needs to change, but we can’t wait for that to happen, so our kids will be going to Catholic school until something does change. It was the right decision. The music program rocks, but we have fallen in love with everything else about the school too! We actually got sent home a Music curriculum the first week of school.

Since our oldest is reading already, we are considering piano lessons now. Whether or not my kids want to pursue a music career doesn’t matter to me. I just know how important music is for the soul, and to wake up other parts of our brain. Math always came easy to me… I don’t know if it was a natural correlation to my innate love of music, but some studies say that may have something to do with it. I also flourished socially by the last couple of years in high school, and I truly believe choir class and my music teacher had a lot to do with that. I learned not only how to work as a team, but how to be an effective leader. Plus, think about how universal music is — even if you hear it sung in a different language, it makes you feel something, even if it’s bad (we all have music we don’t enjoy, right?) but it is also just as likely to inspire you on some level. We may live in a big world with a diverse society, but music absolutely links us together. The rhythm of life is a powerful beat. 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted October 15, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    My experience with high school choir mirrors yours… Amy Hughes was one of my heroes. Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Barnes instilled passion for the arts and along with it, a passion for life.

    My kids listen to varied music, too. Our favorite family music is a group called The Decemberists. I took them to Ohio to see them play, last summer. At 11 and 13, I know that I will soon have very little influence over what they listen to… but for the time being, I will expose them to as much as possible.

  2. Posted June 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Kelli, I came across this via the BCC Choir Geeks page… I totally know where you are coming from — I had a similar experience to yours at GVSU when I started at MSU. And I think about those 4 years of choir at BCC nearly every day — how lucky we were to have Hughes and how much time she invested in giving us great opportunities and great memories. Glad to hear you are getting your girls started early with music, & I’d encourage you to get her started on piano. The early years are so important for learning to play & read — you never pick it up as quickly as when you’re young.

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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