I taught a few of the hour long workshops under the watchful eyes of the other two clinicians who offered constructive criticism on how I taught. Through their guidance my teaching became stronger. I took their ideas home with me and applied them to my own classroom and the effect was amazing. My kids began playing even better.
I began this whole experience when I was teaching middle school some 20 years ago. I entered a classroom with 30 guitars and 30 very interested middle school students. I announced that we would be learning how to play recorder. Their instant response was “WHY?” I simply said it was my curriculum. They really wanted to play the guitar; however, I did NOT want to play guitar as I had never been personally successful on the instrument and felt very uneasy about teaching it. That January was our state music educator’s convention. At the convention I met Nancy Marsters (who was teaching a class on guitar for the classroom). I attended her class and was immediately turned on to guitar. I was successful and was having a blast within an hour. She and I spoke about the opportunity to attend a guitar workshop in Wisconsin where they would pay for my tuition and materials. I had to write several essays to apply for this program but…in the end…off I went that summer to Wisconsin to study guitar for a week.
I was one of the people in the classroom learning just like all of the people I have taught in the GET workshops. I left that week so incredibly inspired that I could not wait to get into my classroom and get my kids turned on. That year was one of the best ever for me as a teacher. EVERYONE loved my class. It was the talk of the school. I was asked to teach a class for our district on what I was doing. Three years later I left that school to work on my doctorate. In the meantime I also began working part time at a high school (no guitar…only choir). After one year the principal approached me and asked me if I was interested in teaching guitar. I replied with great enthusiasm YES YES and YES. From that one class of 15 students I now teach 250 students guitar and we were able to hire another 2 music teachers within 14 years time. We have a student population of 2800 and over 1200 of these students are involved in the performing arts (dance, drama, piano, guitar, choir, band, orchestra, mariachi). My guitar ensembles have been featured at national events as well as state. They have taken two international tours. Great things have happened and will continue to happen.
Frequently kids ask me: “ Play something for us on the guitar.” I reply….”I am not a master guitar player. I am a master singer and pianist. I will gladly show you my skills there. I am here to guide you to be a master guitar player.” The advanced kids get it. I have not spent my life mastering the guitar as I have the piano as well as my voice. I feel very confident however that I can teach guitar successfully. Students no longer really challenge my playing abilities because they can see the end product in my students.
It was approximately 6 years ago that Nancy Marsters and the Guitar Education Team contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in applying to be an intern on the team. I was very interested and did apply. My first year was spent with two clinicians in Pittsburgh, PA. I taught a few of the hour long workshops under the watchful eyes of the other two clinicians who offered constructive criticism on how I taught. Through their guidance my teaching became stronger. I took their ideas home with me and applied them to my own classroom and the effect was amazing. My kids began playing even better.
I remember sitting in front of my peer mentors as well as the class. I was teaching PIMA technique. I mentioned something that truly bothered one of my mentors (the way I was doing the PIMA really bothered the person). The person waited quite patiently and then approached me later and sat with me in reference to this. We worked together to fix the issue. Then the next day I was able to address the class and explain WHY what I had taught them was not quite right and WHY the “new” way was right. It was a priceless moment for me. I could use my very own error to teach others better. I cracked some jokes and made light of the matter. It went off without a hitch. From that moment forward I always have checked with an “expert” before I teach something more refined to insure that I know what I am doing and that I am executing it correctly. We do not have to be perfect…..We simply have to do our very best.
After successfully completing my first year with GET (Guitar Education Team) I was asked to go to Atlanta, GA for my second year. I was given more responsibility in teaching as well as leadership. The same thing happened that happened the first year—great ideas were exchanged and I applied them to my teaching. Once again I came home and applied them to my own teaching and I created a new standard of excellence to hold myself accountable as well as my students.
The economy took a nosedive and thus my internship was placed on hold (as it is a 3 year internship prior to final acceptance onto the team). This past year I had the joy of traveling to Colorado Springs, CO to team teach. The responsibility was split equally and what a joy it was! I truly felt like I have the skills to do what this team does. We inspire others to go out there and be successful at this art of teaching guitar. It has been a journey as an intern. It is one that I will not regret whether I become a permanent member of the team or not. I have grown as a teacher and as a musician; This alone is priceless.
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