Music Educators as First Responders

Mike Lawson • ChoralPerspective • March 27, 2020

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I can’t believe my luck, last month talking about the Type A Flu I got coming home from TMEA (in my Choral Director editorial) and segueing into the need to make your program infectious, um, so to speak. Who saw this coming this severely and happening here?

Obviously, this pandemic is like nothing any of us have ever experienced in our lifetimes, and hopefully will survive and never experience again. I have friends across the country who have tested positive. This is not the flu. It is not a cold. It doesn’t go away seasonally.

Thankfully, many, if not most, school districts are shutting down across the country, some sooner rather than later, and most are predicting they will not reopen this school year.

I am grateful that so many educators and columnists for SBO dropped what they were doing and re-wrote their contributions this month. We postponed a couple of standing columns to make room for as much information as we could over on how to navigate these choppy, unchartered waters. This is just what we can’t in these pages. What I have seen online, particularly within Facebook, is nothing short of amazing to watch unfold. Music teachers from all levels of educational fields performing triage work, supporting each other in amazing ways as they struggle to continue giving their students an education. It is all happening at a blistering pace. The teachers I have known, some for decades, within the TI:ME organization, sprang into action by helping devise ways to teach remotely using technology to still meet the standards of instrumental and vocal music instruction for the entire range of genres and instruments. It was dizzying to watch the first week it was coming together.

In addition, so many companies opened up their resources to music educators for free to help them keep their students on track. For those students lucky enough to have technology afforded them, and Internet access, this is really remarkable. Some districts around the country still forbid students from using tech for these home studies, so teachers were scrambling for help to put together resources to print out and send home with a day or two of notice. Many students, especially in our Title I schools, don’t have the technology, or supports in place to make use of the technology at home, or don’t have an instrument to take home. For instance, mallet percussion students don’t tend to own a marimba, so students on “those” kind of instruments that stay at school have a whole other world of needs as opposed to students whose parents purchased their brass, woodwind, percussion, stringed, or other instruments.

I don’t follow teacher groups on Facebook outside of music education. I am sure math, science, English, history, and the rest all pulled together as well. I can only say I am so proud of the work the TI:ME members and other teachers did, like they’ve been training their whole lives to finally give a major proof of concept to the modernization of music education. I wish that all students across the country had equal access to the resources they need to maintain distance learning in a crisis, which could be put to use in everyday study planning so that it wouldn’t suddenly be so difficult to implement in a panic.

You music teachers making this happen for your students are superheroes to me, and your students who only want to go to school because you are there for them. And here you are, in this strange, difficult time, still there for them. Thank you.


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