“The only thing constant is change.” –Heraclitus
That holds true for music. How many eras of music have we lived through in which music continued to evolve? Not only has the sound of music continued to change, but how it is produced, how it is taught, and how it is received. To commit one’s self to music means to connect with the times and to have the opportunity to be led into a vast array of cultures in every possible corner of the world. We can’t possibly know it all! As music educators, our sole focus is not to be the masters and professionals in the room – no. It is our mission to be the lifelong learners of our music world; to live and breathe as the example we encourage our students to be. It is our job to facilitate the learning of our students, by being students ourselves.
As a team member at ETM-LA, I had the privilege of attending the 2023 California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC). Let me start by mentioning a few things that I came out of CASMEC with: realignment with ETM-LA’s mission to pursue high-quality music education for students, realignment with myself and my “why”, a newly-inspired vision, and the restructuring of my personal mission as a music educator. It is my personal belief that in order for my students to receive a high-quality music education, their music teacher first needs to receive high-quality music education.
When I walked through the doors of CASMEC, I became a sponge. I sharpened my mind while attending sessions on topics I wanted more training in, more ideas for, and also topics that I may need in the future. I like to prepare myself for what’s to come and what can be. I prepare myself, not only for the students I have, but the ones I’ve yet to embark with on a musical journey. For example, although my passion for general music education runs deep, I attended a session on conducting for non-orchestral conductors. My key take-aways were: appropriate repertoire and things to note (no pun intended) when balancing an orchestra that includes the winds section. Since I chose to pursue more knowledge in an area I didn’t know much about, I’ll be ready, if or when that time comes. That’s the great thing about attending conferences like CASMEC; we have the opportunity to sharpen and update the tools in our area of expertise, but we can also add new tools due to the various sessions open to us.
One of the sessions I attended was led by a Filipino woman who engaged us through songs and activities from her book, Songs of the Sun; a book just oozing with pride over the Philippines. At the end of that session, I was reminded that it is in our music classrooms where students can begin to feel seen; that often our multilingual learners are told to keep their heads down and blend in. From that session, I learned how to genuinely and respectfully introduce other cultures and languages into my class through music; how to approach being inclusive without just checking a box from what is expected of me.
As I stood in a room full of general music educators, singing and playing around, having fun and being mind-blown by the smallest things, I drifted back into my passionate educator-self and remembered that my students need me. They need me even if it’s a small blip during their day. They need me for fun, for a brain-break, for a safe-space, to affirm that they’re allowed to express themselves. Why did I choose a life of teaching music to children? Because it runs deep to journey with a developing human and to see them find confidence in themselves as they step outside of their comfort zones, all while making music.
Music teachers, I implore you to commit yourselves to a life of learning. We’re not in the business of mastery and there’s no finish line. If you ask me, we are in the best position to be lifelong learners ourselves.
Arvi Lapuz, Music Teacher & Intern Specialist
Education Through Music-Los Angeles
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Education Through Music-Los Angeles is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide and promote music in under-resourced schools as part of the core curriculum for every child in order to enhance students’ academic achievement, creativity, and overall development.
For more information: www.etmla.org