As Teachers ... (in Unison)

By Pieffer, Phyllis I. | American Music Teacher, June-July 2003 | Go to article overview

As Teachers ... (in Unison)


Pieffer, Phyllis I., American Music Teacher


If you are like me, some days, we can't help but wonder why we have chosen teaching as a profession, especially when the fifth student in a row comes into the studio saying, "I really had a rough week--two midterms plus my basketball team lost the district championship." And you know the student has not touched his or her instrument all week.

Consider this answer from the Music Teacher Society from Auckland, New Zealand: "Why does the piccolo profession like music that's full of "viol" practices, confirmed "lyres", old "fiddles" and "bass" desires? For the "lute", of course!"

We certainly did not join the teaching ranks for the "lute!"

I am very grateful to a colleague who shared this true story with me at the recent MTNA National Conference in Salt Lake City:

At an eye appointment with my new ophthalmologist, I was talking about my profession as an independent music teacher. He asked me many questions about student load and schedule. I also told him about our wonderful activities: theory tests, keyboard musicianship tests, an annual monster concert, and more. He was curious as to what fees I charged, and when he heard the amount, he said, "You do all that for that much?" Then he added, "IT'S PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT MAKE AMERICA GREAT!"

We are in the music teaching profession because we consider it to be the best profession in the world. Frances Clark, the esteemed piano pedagogue, said, "There is music in everyone. The teacher's job is to find it." Does anything compare to seeing a student's eyes light up when they discover something special in music that really excites them or when the student finally polishes a piece and creates a musical moment? The only thing I can think of is when my little grandson says, "I love you, Grandma!"

Whether independent music teachers or college faculty, we are all teachers--we are all cut from the same cloth. I used to jokingly say that I sat on a fence with one leg dangling in the college world and one leg dangling in the independent music teacher world. But that is not really true. At the National Conference, nearly everyone who attended the Association Breakfast taught independent students, many in addition to being full-time college faculty. We face the same challenges, responsibilities and concerns in today's world of music. AND we face the same types of problems, successes and disappointments, joys and concerns as our colleagues in public school music, professional musicians in symphony orchestras and in other applied areas such as strings, brass and winds. We need to strengthen and enhance our relationship between the independent music teacher and college faculty. We also need to continually strengthen our relationships with other organizations and find meaningful avenues of communication and opportunities to present a united stand before the public on the importance of music. Combining our efforts to bring music to all human beings, young and old, can only enrich our lives and that of our students.

As teachers, we have many concerns with professionalism--being recognized as professionals in music rather than just the local music teacher, or the church musician who also teaches piano. Since we have only lived in Aberdeen, Washington, for five years, I am still known in my area as the "piano teacher who bought the Leschke house!" How's that for a referral?

One of the major tenants of professionalism is certification. Have you read the quotes celebrating certification in previous issues of American Music Teacher? One teacher wrote, "The MTNA Certification Program provides national recognition for promoting professional competence in the music teaching profession." Or listen to this parent: "As an MTNA Certified teacher, (our child's teacher) ... holds herself to the utmost standards of professional musicianship. "During the term of former MTNA President Joan Reist, the Board of Directors approved a forward-looking certification plan. …

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