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Spotlight on Arvi, Music Teacher & Instructional Supervisor

"I've become so invested in my students and the journeys they are all on. I have the privilege to see those journeys through the lens of music learning and music appreciation."

Why do you teach music?
I love to see human experiences through the eyes of someone who is just beginning to understand the world of music. I find joy in sharing an appreciation of music with others or to teach them how they can appreciate it. Children are some of the most honest human beings. I get to really see their joys, struggles, and growth when teaching them. I love it!

How has teaching impacted you?
Teaching itself has taught me to communicate better! You don’t really realize how good your communications skills are until you have to get at least 30 humans to all do the same thing! On a deeper level, however, it has truly brought out a more compassionate and empathetic side of me. In the classroom, it’s more about my students than it is about me and what I need them to learn. I can’t change their lives in one 30-minute class (or maybe I can), but I’ve become so invested in my students and the journeys they are all on. I just have the privilege to see those journeys through the lens of music learning and music appreciation. My students have so much to offer and I know they won’t all become professional musicians one day, but I’ve become such a huge advocate of their self-expression from day to day.

How has your heritage played a role in connecting with and teaching your students?
I was a foreign student. I know what it feels like to be new and to try new things. Whether or not my students are from here, once they enter my classroom they are encouraged in a safe space to be brave enough to try new things. I grew up learning the ways of others different from myself and my family. I take that into my classroom by telling my students that we are all different, we all have opinions, and music is all different and that is okay.

Can you share a story on how you’ve seen music impact a student(s)?
I work in an area where I have students who don’t even speak the same language as I do. I can only imagine how they might be feeling. A few of them have been pulled out of their home countries and were thrown into situations where there is obviously a huge language barrier, therefore making my students wallflowers. That wasn’t okay with me. As we know – music is a universal language. If I couldn’t speak their native language, I was going to get through to them through music. In class we use a lot of repetition, and good teaching involves demonstration. Using hand signals, some eye contact, a thumbs up every now and then, Google Translate out loud from my phone, and by showing genuine investment in those students, I have seen them come alive and become more interactive. They know when and how to show me the beats, they sing songs that they’ve heard about 100 times, and the list goes on. Meeting my students where they are has really helped them feel seen. In addition, I’ve also had students in my classroom who aren’t so talkative and sometimes simply non-verbal. With the help of music, I can’t get them to stop asking questions and using their voices!

How has your family’s heritage and culture influenced you musically?
The stereotypical expectations that come from my cultures have played a huge role in my determination to become a musician. I frequently hear, ‘If you’re a Filipino, you’re going to become a nurse, a doctor, or a healthcare worker’. That was not the case for me and I’m thankful that my mother did not pressure me into that path. She saw that at a very young age, I was curious about instruments and music. At the age of 7, I started taking piano lessons, and that paved the road to my musical future. I can’t say that I had to fight against the grain as a Filipino, but I was determined to make something of myself in a profession that almost anyone, Filipino or not, doesn’t consider to be a “real job”.

Are there any songs from Filipino culture that you recommend as part of the curriculum for music educators, and/or that you have enjoyed teaching to students?
The Philippine National Anthem was a song I grew up singing with great pride. I would definitely teach that to my students. However, my most favorite Filipino musical experience is to a song & dance called, “Tinikling”. Tinikling is a traditional Philippine folk dance which originated during the Spanish colonial era. The dance involves two people musically beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles in a dance. There are certainly lots of rhythmic elements to pull from that dance, whether you’re the person tapping and clapping the bamboo sticks together or the person doing the footwork between the clapping bamboo sticks. It’s a lot of fun!

Lastly, do you have any fun facts about Filipino culture and music?
Filipinos love and embrace music! Whenever I attend a Filipino party, the host usually owns a karaoke machine and microphone. We will often end the night in karaoke!