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Reflecting on the Summer Music Educators Workshop

Last month, 64 ensemble directors attended an intensive four-day Music Educators Workshop in the Resnick Education Wing. Educators discussed how to hook students on a tough-sell piece, adapt repertoire to their classrooms, conduct with confidence, set purposeful learning outcomes, and ask rigorous questions about music. Teachers even became composers for a day, creating new works in small groups during a songwriting workshop. Next year, the Summer Music Educators Workshop will expand to welcome teachers from all across the country.

Jaymes Welsh from Edward R. Murrow High School details the events and discussions that took place, and shares his reflections upon his workshop experience.

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Early this past July, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the inaugural Summer Music Educators Workshop in the newly opened Resnick Education Wing. My initial thoughts going in were, ‘Four straight days working with experts in the field of music education in the most respected music mecca on earth? Yes, please!’ I mean, what more could a music educator look for in a professional development learning opportunity? Speaking as one, I can tell you that so many professional development sessions designed for teachers nowadays stray so far from the source material that drove us to join our professions. They seek to redefine what we already know and to reinvent a wheel using parts that have little resemblance to the cars we wish to drive. Simply put, they try to make the music secondary to the process of teaching music. This week would reexamine that misled path. And the week would not disappoint. With an over-arching theme of “How and Why Music Educators Choose Quality Repertoire,” there was a great deal of material to be covered. The topic was beyond germane, and yet I have never seen it as even a discussion point at any conference I had previously attended. This was a welcome change.

After brief introductions, the week started off, surprisingly, with a presentation by an actor, Eric Booth, who challenged us as educators to find the creative artists and thinkers within our students. We then progressed to discussions led by teaching artist Richard Mannoia on why quality repertoire is important at all grade levels. There were quite a few different schools of thought on this issue, but it would seem that this is where good discussion arises. Finally, under Elgin Youth Symphony Music Director Reginald Thomas, we all worked together to create our own improvisational pieces, which can be quite challenging and somewhat intimidating for the classical performer (as opposed to those with jazz backgrounds).

When the day was done, the staff had prepared a wonderful reception for the participants. The staff was both warm and accommodating, providing tours of the facility and a balcony view of the New York City skyline at lunch. That, in addition to a wonderful free concert on the final evening of the week, made this certainly the most enjoyable workshop I have ever attended. In fact, a common theme stated at the conclusion of the week was that this event reenergized the teachers present to begin a new year in September. I would wholeheartedly recommend these workshops to my fellow music educators in the future. Not only do you get the quality music education content one would expect from the Weill Music Institute, you are treated as a welcome guest.

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—Jaymes Welsh
Music Educator, Edward R. Murrow High School

Summer Music Educators Workshop 2015 group (Stephanie Berger)
Photography: Stephanie Berger

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