The music of my past…

Last night, I had a bit of time to myself and went searching through my music library. First, I was looking for Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, so I put ‘Jesu’ in the search field. Now, it turns out I don’t have that exact piece, but what came up was an excerpt of the colonial chorale When Jesus Wept from my American Music class. After listening through that piece that has a sound so distinctively American to me now, I had the inkling to then search for ‘New England’.

What popped up was Ives’ Three Pieces from New England and Schuman’s New England Triptych. It was for the Triptych that I was looking, for it was the most amazing set of works I ever played in high school. I still feel like I know those pieces inside and out; we rehearsed them and tore them down and rebuilt them so thoroughly. We then performed that set, along with other works, for the state conference on music education in California in my junior year. I still have the program we displayed for our performance, because I used that for signatures as opposed to a yearbook.

I’m not quite certain why the music activated my memory so vividly last night. A whole flood of semi-dormant memories came back to me, and they still are this morning. Now that my thoughts are in that section of my mind, I can recall sitting in the band room, watching my favorite teacher conduct the Euphonium portion of the chorale from When Jesus Wept, the middle movement of the Triptych. That moment was such as special place and time, a small portion of a great thing I was a part of while being educated in music under that teacher (who I miss a great deal).

I think that what helped to bring all this to the fore in my mind is that I’m working in a school with kids just starting out on their instruments. It’s bringing me back to my own beginnings in music, of which there have been many. And so with that weighing on my mind, and then hearing the Triptych, it all came back to me. I, of course, had no concept of how truly special that band program was at the time, but since leaving it and encountering so many others, my old band had a quality and caliber rarely seen elsewhere.

I very much want to give that same kind of experience to these kids here. Granted, these aren’t high schoolers who have been playing at least four years prior to arriving, but I can at least get them all started on the proper footing. It’s thrown my aspirations for a bit of a loop, as through much of college I had decided I would rather pursue a career in teaching government and history, rather than music. And keeping with that allowed me to graduate sooner and begin my life with my family.

But now, it’s getting hazy. I’m working the technology end at an arts school which puts me in cahoots with music teachers more than anyone else. And starting in January, the jazz band will be under my direction alone. My work experience and my minor have been invaluable to me, and my full degree has done little more than put me in a higher pay scale (nothing to sneeze at, of course). At least I know that in some capacity I want to be a proper school teacher, and that will come in time. It is just that who and what I would be teaching has become less clear. What keeps recurring is the feeling that as music and band have always been not only so important to me, but such an integral part of me, and I think has done nothing but made me a better person, that I want to make sure it is given to kids forever more.

For still today, even at a school for the arts, the importance specifically of music is completely underappreciated. In nearly any study taken at any given school, those schools with proper music programs have students who are better disciplined and have a higher capacity for learning than those schools without. Just another item on my list of things to change or improve in the United States, and I swear, it seems the section on education keeps getting longer.