This post was written on the second day of my experience taking a Comprehensive Musicianship Project workshop at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Yesterday I began my voyage through a three and a half day class on new ways to think about teaching music in the large group classroom. This blog entry is a continuation of the comments I made in that post.
As I reflect on what the CMP is doing for me as a teacher I am struck by just how vital it is to have good teachers at EVERY stage of your life. Don't get me wrong, there are very few of my old teachers that I would consider poor, in fact, dating back even to elementary school I always had very positive and motivational teachers. But back during my formative band years my teachers taught very differently than we teach now. Back then my band directors rarely, if ever, gave us a written test of any kind. All of our learning and knowledge was gained through rote rehearsal in a large group setting. I honestly do not recall ever taking a written test on anything music related all the way through my second year of high school. On top of this I found that I never had to practice. Everything came easily to me at this level and although I loved the music and the experiences, I felt like I had no reason to bother with it.
It was about this same time that there was a changing of the guard in my school, and my forty year veteran teacher retired to be replaced by a teacher fresh out of college. This new teacher pushed me much harder in theory and overall musicianship than her predecessors. She was aware of what lay before me when I entered college and was attempting to get me ready. Unfortuntely for her I didn't really listen. My attitudes and habits had been set long before she arrived, and the two remaining years of high school I had with her were not enough to change my musical wiring. As a result, when I entered college I stuggled to keep up with some of my subjects. Theory was especially hard, as were aural training and sight singing even though I had considerable choral experience. The biggest change that I had to make was the realization that what I called practice was not what my professors called practice. There were times when I considered dropping and moving to a technology related field, but I stuck with it because of an overwhelming drive and determination that this was my personal calling in life.
After graduation I found myself teaching the way I had been taught. Not the way I had been taught by my college professors, but instead as a wierd hybrid of the old ways and the new ways intermingled. I taught toward the concert, occasionally throwing in real musical concepts and activities, but rarely putting an adequate amount of effort into their preparation. I had become a band director, not an instrumental music educator. As a result my bands always did well, but never broke the barrier of what we would consider superior. It was only after I realized that my band's problems were the fault of my teaching methods and not the fault of the students that I started to make a real effort to change. Five years after my realization of this fact I continue to seek out new ways to better myself. My participation in the CMP project is one of these many ways that I am trying to undo a lifetime of bad habits. So far, I am very excited about what it is doing for me.