As a teacher of instrumental and choral music in the "classical" Western art traditions, I have some very strong beliefs. A fellow elective teacher at my last school once asked me, "Are you one of those music teachers who only listens to classical music?" accompanied by a disapproving scowl. I thought to myself, "Have you ever had a conversation with me?"
My biggest teaching trait, I think, is that I want students to be able to connect the performance literature that they sometimes have trouble relating with to the music they enjoy on their own time. Sure, you get the odd high school student who is obsessed with Stravinsky and Berlioz, but, as my alma mater's brilliant Dean said to us in percussion tech, "If you truly believe music education is for every child..." He and many others have instilled in me a drive to deliver music education, through whatever means we can connect, to as many students as I can and in as many ways as I can.
I studied music in the same traditions that I teach, having started in middle school band. My official academic musical training came from public schools & universities.
Much of what I "studied" on my own time, however, was popular music. As I started at my university, I continually sought ways that the academic study of music and my love of popular music overlapped.
A new music theory professor arrived at my university at the start of my sophomore year -- he would eventually be my undergrad thesis adviser, said thesis written on artistic and musical connections between Erik Satie and Sonic Youth -- and upon reading his new faculty profile, it seemed that among other scholarly accomplishments, he had written a few major scholarly papers on Green Day.
I am pretty sure I sat in my school's library at exactly that moment, and said, "I want to do that!"
I have always wanted to teach music. My first affirmation of this came at the end of my eighth grade year, when I told my director I wanted to major in music in college. Her opinion meant a lot to me, and so when she said, "Well, it's very hard work, but you're a hard worker," it felt like a blessing. My second affirmation occurred while riding in my mother's car, my sophomore year of high school, a few days after my band's winter concert. My heart felt full, the way it does when you understand your purpose a little better. I knew I wanted to teach music, and for whatever reason that concert had confirmed it, but I hadn't told anyone that specifically yet. My mother, whose opinion also matters a great deal to me, said without prompting, "You know what would be a good job for you? A band director."
My other career path option was a music journalist, and for several reasons, I am glad that didn't work out. I have gotten to moonlight as a writer and even at times written about/covered musical events, including reviews, concerts, and general opinion pieces.
Sometimes, I feel like I struggle to find many other teachers with similar philosophies. I know we all feel like we're alone in our professions sometimes, especially when you're the only person teaching your subject in your school (which I have always been), but in any given room of music teachers, I always feel like I'm somewhere on the outside. Which is okay -- thus I claim the rebel title.
I love what I do and I am able to look back and be incredibly grateful for what I've accomplished so far. But aside from covering performance and theory fundamentals, it is incredibly important to me to know that decades from now, my students will hear a song on the radio and groan, knowing that I taught them something very specific about it, and was able to find a way to relate it to a concept we were covering in class.
Is that too much to ask for?