My Vision- Choir with an impact

This summer I’ve been thinking about what I REALLY want to do with my life.  What I REALLY want to do with music.

Music is amazing.  It has positive impact no matter what.  However, this summer I had the privilege of meeting two people that made me think about how should I do music to impact people in a meaningful way.

Faith is a big part of how I got involved in music in the first place.  I want to combine music and faith.  I believe that Jesus called his disciples to take care of the broken.  This summer I met a couple who works with a children’s choir in the Philippines.  They write music to tell the story of poverty.  They use music to connect with the kids, and when we use something like music to connect with the children of a community, a connection to the WHOLE community occurs.

I want to use my music to impact people in a way that causes change.  I want to use it to heal communities and inspire others in a way that goes with my faith.  I had a thought about a year ago for something I want to do, but now, I’m actually starting to believe I can make it happen.

I want to make choirs that help victims of human trafficking heal.  I want to use music to make girls who have been victims of sexual trafficking smile.  I want to use it so they can learn new skills and find confidence again.

So my long term idea is to develop a program to build choirs for former victims of sex trafficking.  I’ve thought about combining music therapy with music education.  Therapy helps with the actual mental and emotional healing on a deeper level.  The music education (that’s me!) helps with the program development, the learning of a new skill, and the smiles.

I keep meeting certain people that know about the world of trafficking, and I do not think that is an accident.

So I think it’s actually on my heart now.  I think I’m actually figuring out what I’m supposed to do.  I started thinking about wanting to have this kind of social impact a few years ago. I did not really know what to do or how to do it.  I would get excited about something, but not truly do something.  I started dabbling in action with safe houses in high school, but I want to do something that actually will last.  I think I’m going to go for it with this one and really make it work.

The Teacher I’d Like to Become

For my intro to music education class, we had to write a final paper on our teaching philosophy and teaching goals.  Here is mine!

The Teacher I’d Like to Become

Success as a music teacher and success for my students is defined by both personal break through and musical break though.  I think that one cannot completely come without the other.  Dr. Perkins told my music education class, “You have to think about if you want to be the maestro, or the missionary.”  My initial response to this question was, “Missionary! Of course!”  However, now I think maybe I can squeeze in a little bit of both.  The maestro that has great musical expectations has them because he or she knows what excellent musicianship can cause in students.  Most of the true reasons I want to teach music are not just musical.  Most of the reasons I want to teach have to do with positive personal and emotional development that participating in music can cause.  Music gives students a reason to have pride and confidence and provides a place of expression, peace, and solace. Music develops interpersonal skills, gives students a common ground that is special. It can tear down social and personal barriers.  It provides a community of different types of people.   On top of all of this wonderful development, it is just plain fun.  All of these are wonderful things about music education and this is part of the success that can be found in it.  I will see success in my students’ lives as they gain confidence through practice.  I will see success as they use music to communicate with other people and understand other people’s viewpoints.  All of these things are part of the ultimate success, but cannot occur without absolutely wonderful musicianship.

When the musicianship is at its highest level, the music can convey its purpose to a fuller effect.  The music is the basis for the personal and communal break throughs that happen in music education and when the music can come closest to conveying its purpose, then the students will have the best experiences with others.  That purpose may just be to learn what a half note is, or it may be to express a feeling of loss.  Whatever the level, excellence in their music study is a huge part of the success.  I would not just be happy saying that my students tried and they made friends and had fun even though the music was not good.  I want them to truly learn something about music, to gain a better level of musicianship than when they began, and hopefully obtain a level that is higher than they even thought they could attain.  No, they may not be playing amazing complicated repertoire.  That is not the point, but if the level of music is strong, then the personal experiences can be strong.  This successful point of musicianship makes students understand something about themselves or others that they had not understood before.  It opens the way for all the personal success.

I want to teach in a way that helps my students be independently thinking musicians.  I thought about what I liked in how my choir directors taught.  They used practical methods of getting students to understand musicianship.  Especially once we got to varsity choir.  They would ask “how do you think this should be phrased?” or would have some students come and conduct how they thought it should be phrased.  They rarely, if ever said, “Sing it like this!”  They asked questions and gave students independence, yet guided independence.  They respected us as young musicians and encouraged us to gain the ability to make musical choices. I think that good teachers tend to ask really good questions.  Helping students become independent musical thinkers has a lot to do with the kinds of questions that are asked.

Most of the reasons I want to teach music are extra- musical.  I truly think that my music teachers helped me become a better person in ways that some of my other teachers could not.  Part of the way they did this was they shared their lives with us.  They shared their experiences that the music sometimes reflected.  They asked us to share our experiences.  They worked to have us truly understand what we sang so we could perform it to its fullest effect, but also so that we could consider aspects of humanity and aspects of our own feelings that are in music.  They were not closed off to their personal experiences and often shared in struggles.  Sharing their lives with us and thinking about the feelings and experiences that the music evoked made us engage better musicianship and understand why we were singing.   Music is deeply personal, and I think if a teacher shares personal experiences with their students and encourages them to consider their own personal experiences, they can understand the beauty in music.  Being a personal teacher helps create a personal community, and this give music a way to have its full effect.

The teacher I’d like to become has a high standard for music, yet believes that music has the power to teach students the most important skills in life.  She believes music can teach students deeply beneficial and beautiful skills such as critical thinking, personal evaluation, and interpersonal skills.  She wants to be mostly a missionary, yet have the skill to be a maestro.  The teacher I’d like to become shares her life fully with others so that music can fulfill its greatest purposes.

Business Plan

I know that I want to teach a choir one day.  That’s easy.  But there is a lot in-between, and there are a lot of other things I am interested in.  I’d like to have a high school choir, but choirs can branch away from that.  There can be choirs that bring aid to certain types of people groups.  There can be choirs that travel and do service work.  It’s not just about settling into a routine with a normal choir program.

The Music Education degree has a fairly direct business plan.  I plan to teach music.  I’m not worried about being a “teaching artist” or teaching on the side.  It is exactly what I want to do.  However, I want to do it in a way that benefits others in ways that have never been used before.  I want to reach students with music who have never been reached.

So I have some other interests.  Lately, I have been fighting with myself about what minors I should get in the next three years.  I am wanting to combine a human rights minor, which is very new to SMU and quite new to the country, with something business oriented.  Right now I am minoring in business administration, but with human rights and music, it has hard to give my best effort to everything I do.  So I think I may choose general business, which can be done through summer school if needed, or arts entrepreneurship.  I want to bring music to people, and teach it to people that it will help.  It helps just about everyone though.  But I have something in mind.

An incredible issue in America in Human Rights is human trafficking.  Specifically, the trafficking of women as sex workers and other types of labor horrifies me.  This issue has latched on to my life.  I figure I’m in Dallas, one of the top ten cities for human trafficking.  I figure music helps people.  So I have something in mind.  Right now, I’m keeping my idea a secret, whispering words to a few, and whispering many prayers.  I think things are coming together.  I believe that my purpose is to honor the God of this world, and he said to take care of the exploited.  To do this, human rights will help me understand the issue and how to alleviate it.  Business will help me implement my ideas.

I want to serve the exploited through music.  I also want to serve the church in some ways. I plan to begin singing at churches when possible in the Dallas area.  Some churches pay to have musicians.  Maybe I can help create a way to supply churches with musicians, whether they don’t have the budget for it and need volunteers, or if they want to hire musicians.

I have also entertained the idea of having a flower shop one day.  I think that’s a fairly artistic venture.  Obviously, I place importance on the business minor considering this.

Some of the business and arts entrepreneurship courses may overlap with some skills I need.  I can choose one and get some skills from others.  For example, arts entrepreneurship has a class about raising money for artistic ventures that is unique from other business and finance courses.

Now, to start my business of teaching music, I want to start having students.  This will give me skills to deal with students when I have a teaching job.  It will give me patience.  It will help me gain the skill of explaining music well.

Another part of the business plan is networking.  Everyone talks about networking, but truly, in the music teaching world, especially the southern music teaching world, relationships are beneficial.  Networking will give me ideas on how to be a better teacher, but it will also open the door for many opportunities.

I know a lot will change.  The biggest parts of my business plan now and always must be prayer and trust.  I know I have to be unafraid to fail.  I cannot wait to figure out and see who I will be and what I will do.  I don’t want to set limits.  I don’t have anything to lose.  I will be unafraid of risk.

 

Skills

Since I am planning to teach music, I think my interpersonal skills are extremely important in addition to my music skills.

As a vocalist/artist, I think I am good at bringing a song meaning to life.  I can bring the song to my face by thinking about the meaning.  I’ve been told that I am good at having “smiling eyes” when I sing.  I am good at analyzing the character of a song.  That interests me.  I am interested in the person and thoughts of the character.  I think this can set me apart as a vocalist.  I also have a decent amount of skill in listening and analyzing.  This is useful for interaction as well as in music.  I pay attention to detail and can help a person by what I listen to from them.  It’s also important to listen to what they say as well as what they sing or play.  What they say about their music reflects how they feel they are performing and may reveal a misconception.

I think I am a fairly effective communicator.  I am a good conversationalist.  I usually have something to say in a conversation and can help keep it going.  I try to make people interested and comfortable.  However, I do not have a very good sense of what is “awkward” to others.  I can converse and communicate my ideas and ask questions to try to understand the other person’s ideas, but sometimes I am not aware that they are uncomfortable until they, or some observer, later tells me they are.  I am fairly confident in conversation and like to think I am persuasive.  I am thoughtful about my ideas and try to present them eloquently.  When communicating, I take care to show interest in the person.   People should feel that what they have to say is important.  I think this is especially useful to being a music teacher.  I will have to be able to come up with different ways, depending on each student, for the student to understand.

I am a very driven and dedicated person.  This comes as a skill because it causes me to get things done even if there are obstacles.  I usually can find a way around obstacles when I am determined to get something done.

As far as weaknesses, I am not the best planner and am not good at the elusive art of time management.  I can kind of think things will work out and miss certain details.  I am good at seeing the big picture of things, but sometimes the small plans escape me.  Sometimes with planning I end up stressing myself out later in the process for lack of planning at the beginning.  As to time management, I want to do too many things with the time I have.  If it’s really important I can usually stay on task, but sometimes I want to do too much and it is simply not realistic.  In past event planning for things such as fundraisers (Swine Week) I needed another person, who was better at planning to help me.  I could communicate what we wanted with the end goal but needed someone to pay attention to time management.

Human Rights and Music

I’ve been interested in Human Rights issues for a while.  I’ve done a few things but there are always vicious problems.  SMU has this Human Rights minor that I’ve been thinking of picking up.  I can’t help thinking about how music can help people and how all people deserve justice.  Specifically, I am interested in the justice and help of women.  Especially trafficked women.

I’ve considered music therapy before with this idea, but I love my Music Education major, and it is pretty much everything I want to do.  I have this bit of a hope of making a program just for trafficked women to experience music.  Music can build someone’s self esteem again.  It can give a person joy again, or in a way they have never experienced.  I envision something like partnering with safe houses, perhaps in North Texas where the problem is extreme, and coming in to teach music.  I know that these women are dealing with greater issues then learning to play the piano, but I believe music really helps people.  I know they need psychological and spiritual therapy.  They need rehabilitation in ways I cannot imagine.

I also believe that the world has often moved through its youth.  Through students.  Maybe I can help others that way in teaching.  I’m not entirely sure.

I do not know where the Lord will lead me with this.  I can always be prepared for one story and my life can go another direction.  I’ve wondered if I could have any life, or I knew the world was going to end very soon, what would I want to do?  I don’t know that I would be waiting and working for an education.  I would probably be very quickly trying to accomplish what I can.  I don’t even think I would want to be onstage as a performer in such a case.  I know that I do want to, and would want to if the world was ending, work with people closely.  I’m not so interested in novelities of the world but rather in the human mind, the human soul, and what goes on in people.  I’m interested in human hurt and want to bring a light to it.  I’m interested in human joy and want to give it and experience it.  Somehow, I hope music can do these things.

Elevator Pitch

Music is more about other people than it is about myself.  My desire is to help musicians help others experience the honesty and vulnerability that music causes. I see the voice as art that is in every person, while some may condition it more than others. The voice is an incredibly “human” instrument that speaks personally in many ways that other parts of music cannot.   To make music with other people, while using such a gift as the voice is almost divine.  As a music educator, I want to be a part of other people’s process of discovery with art and beauty and see students light up when they begin to understand the power that music has for the first time. As an artist, I want to make beauty with others.

Motivation

I haven’t been inspired to write a song in a while.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I’ve felt a feeble push to do so at occasional inspiration but never wrote down the words or sat down at the piano.  Perhaps I was much too distracted.  At points, I felt that my songs were not useful as if I had nothing to say.  I wanted to share them with people, but I didn’t think anyone would listen.   I would get motivated by experiences around me.  A single moment clicked a thought in my mind that seemed important yet I felt that the deadlines of my other tasks were far more pressing.  However, when one is motivated, you can rarely recreate that moment of motivation later.  perhaps this moment is more important than all the other deadlines.  Usually these are a combination of internal and external motivations.  Something external causes an internal process that makes me want to write.
I  am often externally motivated to go practice with my voice and piano when I listen to music I find beautiful.  I find joy in the sound and want to go make some myself.  An urge will occasionally come that I just NEED to sing.  This is largely internal.  Often this comes to feelings of joy, a desire to detach from other obligations for a bit.  My voice sort of tingles and singing just feels wonderful at those times.  I think of singing and then I want to sing.  I’m motivated by the desire to satisfy myself and experience joy.  I’m motivated by the desire to accomplish some work.
Stress distracts me from the important part of a task.  I cannot focus and I am certainly not inspired if I feel overwhelmed by my work load or my time constraints.  I become distracted by my own worries, and rather than adding an hour, worry takes away much of my time.  When it comes to working hard on my repertoire, I might get distracted by some pop music or piano music that is not even a part of my lessons.  I listen to Debussy and want to play it so I mess with it for an hour and lose track of time.  I guess I somewhat have to channel my interest in making music for the moment into only classical music.  Sometimes if I go to a practice room, I will only take what I am working on in my voice studio so that I don’t get distracted by other things.  Depending on stressors, I will be completely distracted from my musical work for other types, usually academic and it may suffer for that week.  I use music more at those times for solace and it can become a stressor itself if I am not careful.  That is something I have to manage.  Another distractor that goes along with stress is depressed feelings.  If life seems very dark, I find it difficult to feel motivated to sing.  It is easier to play the piano at those times, but I cannot force my voice to express something I am not feeling.  Sometimes I cannot even force it to express anything.  This does not keep me from my work often or for long periods, but it puts a block in my motivation for the moment.
Motivation in music can come internally or externally.  Distractors can be completely harmful, but sometimes they are good things that distort focus.

Values in Music

Values in music seem to have more to do with the treatment of others and how music is approached.  Not many musicians have to worry about compromising their beliefs for an acting role.  Some actors have been asked to compromise their bodies.  Some actors face conflict in the message of the piece in which they are acting.  A musician must have values about his or her action and use of music.

I value treating others equally.

I value loving people in a way that is rarely seen on earth.

I value the purity of music.

I value the learning that can occur in music when people pay attention to one another.

I believe all people are on the same basis before God.  Everyone should be treated equally.  This goes into how I will interact with others as a musician, teacher, or a conductor.  People should be pushed out of their comfort zones, yet appreciated for who they are.  I find value in the oddities of others.  These oddities can be the things that make them most successful.  No one should ever be underestimated, even if they are a difficult, pompous, or obnoxious person to be around.

I try to stem my morality and actions of purpose from a center of being a follower of this Jesus guy.  That is the basis for many of my decisions, though occasionally I ignore those ideas for my hedonism/selfishness.

I value a call to be a light in this world, yet remain unstained by the parts of it that are far from what is good, what is true, and what is beautifully human.   Yet I will not see myself as if I am above others.  I believe being a light means being aware of pain in the world and engaging in caring for others in ways that are hard.  I want to accomplish this in my music, though I’m not entirely sure how I will.  Partially, in helping students understand themselves and the world and they can make it better is part of this.

I believe it is very important to be capable of engaging the world around me.  I must have a global perspective and a responsibility in the way I live.  In my art, I suppose this may mean using my music to take me places to so that I can then bring attention to global issues.

I’m not so interested in glorifying myself as in bringing about joy through music and doing that in a manner that reflects the joy that the Great Composer has in mind.

No I wouldn’t do something if it contradicted my morals.  Politically, I might, though I probably couldn’t do something like write music for a dictator.  It seems we say we could never, but when faced with our dreams, even if in a watered down form, it’s a harder decision.  It’s easy to compromise.  It’s not easy to stick to your beliefs.  However, in the long run, it’s easier to live in your body knowing that your soul is uncompromised.

Work Habits

It seems difficult to make work habits creative.  Generally, they don’t seem to be a part of creativity, they seem to be a requirement; but what about when a songwriting has to sell his or her songs in three months.  The creativity has a deadline.  I guess it is extremely necessary to find how one thrives in work patterns creatively.  Typically, I’ve always thought that not scheduling my free time was best and it allowed for the completion of whatever came my way.  However, I find myself wasting more time than using.  The time thus is not really free time.  It is wasting time which only leads to stress time.  To improve this, I may need to schedule my study hours and practice hours.  This is something I have never really done.  I have sort of had a time that I typically study, but not really a time that I usually rehearse.  Now, my rehearsal time is more important than it has ever been.  Cramming does not work very well with music.  When I realize I don’t have time to waste, I get more done.  This time is for this specific purpose and other time is for something else. I do not want my study time to have to bleed into practice time and thus feel stressed.

Speaking of stress, time can be used more efficiently when stress is at a minimum.  I find myself entirely unable to accomplish tasks when I feel pressed for time compared to when I feel I have all the time in the world.  This sort of puts me off about creating a schedule for things like practicing and studying, but I think I can observe myself more to find how much time I need or want for each task.  Limited stress during studying is something I try to practice.  Depending on the subject, I can listen to calm music, for others, music distracts me because I would rather listen than study.  Obviously, I cannot listen to music while I practice.  If I have to work for a long time, I like to change the scenery.  I often try to get outside, even for just a bit.  I study elsewhere.  Sometimes I practice in my dorm with my keyboard if I am only learning notes, others, I will spend time in the practice room.  I also change the task of practice and this helps stress and focus levels.  I may practice piano for a few minutes in the middle of practicing vocal music.

Rest and reward help significantly with focus levels and morale.  I find that taking different sized breaks help me focus for longer periods of time when I study.  It helps me persevere towards a goal.  Sometimes the breaks are long, and some of them are only to close my eyes for a short minute and relax, maybe listen to a song or two.  I’ve observed others when they are studying.  Students often try to study too much at once and thus are not using their time efficiently.  They are getting less done, because they cannot focus.  This is something I plan to continue to practice.  If I have an activity to look forward to in the weekend or the evening, I will adjust the time used accordingly.  Accomplishment is key.  Merely by crossing off a task in my planner, I feel relieved and successful.  I can press on.

I want to begin teaching as soon as I can, preferably through lessons, but babysitting or tutoring may help as well.  This will help me to understand my own learning process in music.  Teaching also causes one to reiterate to oneself the things that they think they know.  I may be surprised at what I find.  Explaining to another person how music works makes understanding music more enjoyable and more functional.