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Music Educators Workshop: Expanding Possibilities

Many of us remember that one teacher who helped shape our sense of what is possible through music. While their classrooms can be havens for creative young people—and a school’s band, orchestra, or choir can provide the soundtrack for an entire community’s experience—music teachers often struggle to maintain their relevance and continue their own personal growth in today’s educational landscape.

MEW in Weill Music Room 1 (Richard Termine)

Enter the Music Educators Workshop, a two-year-old program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute that serves 50 ensemble directors who will collectively work with 8,000 middle and high school students throughout New York City this season. Over the course of 10 workshops from September to May, these educators come together to learn from each other and from top-notch guest faculty, to attend concerts at Carnegie Hall, and to explore their important role as instigators of creativity and musicality. “Working with teachers is one of the most important things that WMI can contribute to the field of music education,” said WMI Director Sarah Johnson. “We are investing in professionals who are serving communities year after year, ultimately touching the lives of thousands of children.”

Through WMI’s workshop, teachers investigate several core strategies for teaching music skills, learn about choosing the best repertoire for their ensemble, discuss how to program inspiring and successful concerts, develop creative composition activities for their classrooms, and observe visiting faculty working with student ensembles.

“Teachers need to be brave, not fear failure, be curious about results, and enjoy the whole process—to model that priority for their students.”

The season kicked off with an inspiring conversation led by thinker, writer, and teaching artist Eric Booth, who encouraged teachers to take seriously their challenge to think and act creatively in every aspect of their work with young musicians. “Teachers need to be brave, not fear failure, be curious about results, and enjoy the whole process—to model that priority for their students,” he said.

The workshop continued in October with a two-day retreat with artist-educators Margaret Jenks and Randal Swiggum, who, for the second year in a row, shared their approach to shaping young musicians as developed through the Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance Project (CMP). This model, developed by educators in Wisconsin, focuses on identifying rich ensemble repertoire and setting specific goals for student learning, directly addressing many of the needs that participating educators articulated in their hopes and goals for the workshop.

MEW in Weill Music Room 2 (Richard Termine)

“The antidote to teacher burnout is the knowledge that one has the support of a learning community and the tools necessary to make a positive change in personal practice,” said Ms. Jenks, explaining her enthusiasm about the Music Educators Workshop. “The idea that there is always a way to become even more masterful at the craft of teaching—no matter how successful one is—is what sustains an educator.” For Josh Paris, a music teacher and bassist from NYC iSchool in Manhattan, “the CMP workshop was one of the most inspiring and practical workshops that I have ever attended. I was able to implement their ideas in my classroom the very next day and felt a surge of energy go back into my teaching.”

Building on the strength of local ensemble directors’ experiences with the Music Educators Workshop, the Weill Music Institute will launch a Summer Music Educators Workshop in July 2015 for educators in the tri-state area. Over the course of four days, educators will have opportunities to engage in dialogue about best practices for ensemble directors. Carnegie Hall is excited to continue supporting young musicians’ first glimpses at the creative possibilities of music through the eyes of their teachers.

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