All full-time Music Department faculty members recently attended the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) conference in San Antonio, Texas. Why go all the way to San Antonio? The saying, "Everything's bigger in Texas" is not an understatement when it comes to this conference! The vast Henry B. Gonzales Conference Center is overwhelming in and of itself. Fill it with music educators of all stripes, and it becomes a mind-blowing mobile river of joyful humanity. The positive vibe is palpable! How can it not be? All of these people have the privilege of bringing joy to students through teaching music.
TMEA offers sessions for band and choral directors, general music and early elementary music, including Kodaly, Orff and Dalcroze methodologies. Not only are there a plethora of offerings in each area, every hour of the day, but one is often faced with agonizing decision of which session to attend! There are also school groups of all ages performing at any given time, including Mariachi, elementary Orff, choirs, jazz and concert bands and even Native American flautists! The Amidon family, who brought New England-style folk dancing to Tower Hill many years ago, held sessions there as well.
Almost every evening, our department would convene over dinner to discuss the highlights of our day. They are too numerous to mention, but here are some of the standouts: Scott Zeplin enjoyed a session “The A-List for Clarinet Instruction.” Joan Jennings was interested in technology for her classroom and attended “Tech Tools on a Budget.” Zerrin Martin obtained wonderful insight as she attended “Developing Adolescent Male Voices in Choir.” Drew Keim had the opportunity to take in a trombone choir, in addition to many other sessions including “Maximizing Your Investment in Practice Time.”
I attended sessions on “Integrating STEAM in the Music Classroom,” “Dances and Singing Games for grades K-3” and an Orff concert by fourth- through sixth-graders, as well as several others. One of the sessions I attended was led by John Jacobson, who is fairly famous among elementary general music and choral teachers. I happened upon an article he wrote called "Sounds Like Love" that resonated with me. In it, Jacobson discusses our responsibility as music educators to drown out the negative sounds that inundate us daily such as, news, gossip, even music that reveals the dark side of human nature. He states, "We need to make the sounds of love overpower the rest of the noise and be the first and last sounds a child hears and sings when they wake up in the morning and when they fall asleep at night."
There could be no better moment in recent history to be a music teacher! I am very grateful for a job that allows me to immerse our students in joyful expression through music, every day at Tower Hill School! It is most gratifying to me when there are shouts of, "Again! Again!" after a particularly fun musical activity. I also love it when students ask, "Is music over already?" Through music, our students are not only learning musical skills, they are learning cooperation, self-expression, risk taking, citizenship and perhaps, most importantly, allowing themselves to be joyful. At a time when it is increasingly stressful to come of age, I can think of no greater skill to carry forward in life.
As a closing thought, I am very thankful that Tower Hill places importance on faculty development, as it provides us an opportunity to refresh, connect with other professionals from across the country, and in turn, re-energize our respective music programs.
—Sara Bush, Lower School Music