From the Classroom to the Retailer, but Still in Education

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 14, 2017

Share This:

I never thought I would do anything else but teach in a classroom, but events following the Recession of 2008 carved a path that changed my trajectory.

As the spring of what would become my last year approached, I was working as a district level fine arts administrator while also serving as the director of bands at the high school and teaching the majority of the non-instrumental music courses there. I had a terrible commute, was never home (my time consumed with teacher evaluations, curriculum meetings, budget meetings, school committee meetings, marching band, winter percussion and guard, etc.), and then received notice that our health insurance company had stopped paying a family health matter citing preexisting conditions. I loved being a music educator, and enjoyed working with students, but was clearly on a collision course with burn-out coupled with the stress of needing to provide for my family and to be present with them, naturally of greater paramount. And then, of course, was the very late night when I arrived home to hear my wife say, “You’re done!” (with more color of course!).

In the midst of this, I found myself having increasing conversations with the local retailer whom I had used for years. We had talked about some “what ifs” and tossed about some ideas over the course of a few years, but then reality came in the form of a phone call. “Scotty (it’s a Rhode Island thing to add the “y”), it’s Rick. What are you doing tomorrow?” As it happened, I was taking the day off, so I would be home. The next day, Rick showed up at my house, walked into my kitchen, and offered me a job with excellent family health insurance! He told me to take the weekend to think about it, we shook hands, and he left. With the full support of my family, I called him the following Monday to accept my position as director of education at Rick’s Musical Instruments, Inc.

Working at Rick’s has been nothing short of awesome. Rick Verfaille is an incredible employer, and I am truly blessed to work with a fantastic team of professional musicians who function as repair techs, educational reps, and sales staff. My education background combined with having grown up in family-operated retail businesses not to mention my industry experience as an artist-clinician has provided me with skill sets that are a good fit with the company. So what is it that I do?

My core responsibility is to network with music educators in our territory to support them and their students in areas including but not limited to mentoring, professional development, curriculum, advocacy, and placing noted artist-clinicians in classrooms. I also present sessions to local collegiate NAfME chapters such as mock interviews, résumé preparation, budgeting, and other topics not adequately addressed in their methods courses. While I have maintained my memberships in NAfME, MMEA, and RIMEA, the company is a corporate NAfME member, and we have sponsored and presented MEA sessions.

We are also a proud member company of NAMM, which has allowed me to join incredible industry colleagues as part of the Washington, D.C. Fly-in for the past three years. NAMM was a major voice in supporting the reauthorization of ESEA with the provisions for music education that are now present in the new legislation known as ESSA. Our work continues as we now ask Congress to fund the new law correctly. With Rick’s support and encouragement, I am actively becoming involved in state level advocacy for Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well since we have a second location there doing business as Bravo Musical Instruments.

My role at Rick’s has given me the best of all worlds as a musician. I am still a music educator, just doing so in an alternative way. I have returned to teaching private lessons with up to 20 students per week, and I also maintain an ongoing gig and clinic schedule. It is also true for my colleagues at Rick’s, for we are all encouraged to keep our teaching and performance backgrounds, which helps us to understand better and to serve our customers.

I always conclude session presentations with an overview of our company and its employees and ask educators to contemplate value when they are tempted to shop for the lowest price online. Who is truly going to stand behind the product? Who is going to make necessary repairs? Who continues to call on your school every week to provide service? Who has invested time, energy, and money to provide such incredible professional and program support? Who continues to employ local musicians who as citizens contribute to the local economy and tax base? Who offers unparalleled customer service? We do. If you are reading this article, and reside within our service territory, please give me a call. All of us at Rick’s Musical Instruments will be here for you. If you live elsewhere, then please, if you have not already, go down to your local music retailer, introduce yourself, and learn how they can support your program. You will already be supporting them!

Scott Abrahamson is the director of education at Rick’s Musical Instruments, Inc., and is also an educational clinician/trumpet artist for Jupiter Band Instruments/XO Professional Brass.


The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!