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Perspective: A Better Tomorrow

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 21, 2014

We’ll never survive!” exclaims Buttercup in the light-hearted fairy tale classic, The Princess Bride, when she learns that she is about to enter the dreaded Fire Swamp. Unperturbed, Westley, her hero, glibly replies, “Nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one has.”

The music ed landscape can seem as perilous as the Fire Swamp from

Although arts education may at times feel as perilous as William Golding’s Fire Swamp, where plumes of flame erupt with little warning and eviscerate anything in their path, every year countless daring teachers successfully navigate the seemingly endless array of pitfalls that can threaten to derail their curricular offerings. Still, funding, administrative and parental support, scheduling, and the many other logistical and bureaucratic details music educators face can be formidable challenges. When the outcome looks bleak or a particular problem persists, a bit of solid advice and know-how just might prove to be the difference between survival and, well, the less pleasant alternative.

And it is with those challenges in mind that this publication strives to present the information that can best serve the music education community: relevant news, products reviews, playing tips, and practical articles on everything from advocacy to performance techniques, how to implement technology in the music classroom, and profiles of educators who are eager to share those aspects of their instruction and approach that may prove beneficial to others. In a sense, each issue is another installment of an ongoing survival guide for music educators.

However, as it has for a number of years, this July issue of SBO aims to focus more directly on the elements that are critical to developing and maintaining not just a successful program, but also a rewarding and sustainable career in music education.

In the UpFront Q&A interview with Scott Rush, the longtime educator and author of Habits of a Successful Band Director admits that his own career got off to a rocky start. “My first year was an absolute disaster, as it is for many teachers,” says Rush. Of course, the bands he directed went on to win nine consecutive state marching band titles, as well as the Sudler Flag for concert excellence in 2007. So if 2013-2014 didn’t go as smoothly for you as planned, don’t be alarmed. Perhaps some of the advice that Rush offers can help you plan for an even better year ahead.

And speaking of planning, it’s no secret that formulating and executing a well-organized agenda is critical to both immediate and sustained success in the educational arena. Also in this issue, educational consultant Marcia Neel of the Music Achievement Council presents strategies for making summertime resolutions and then seeing them realized in the coming year.

While you’ll hopefully have some time away from the action this summer, during which you can recharge the batteries that will power your program all year long, mapping out a curriculum isn’t the only thing that should be at the top of your to-do list. One element that frequently avoids mention, but is absolutely essential to long-term success – at least as important as any other facet of running a program – is your own well being. Continuing education and professional development will help you grow as an educator and person, while potentially also advancing your own career. And, as noted in the reader survey in this issue, the most important benefit of those not-actually-selfish professional development activities may be that you will become a better teacher, too.

As you prepare for another exciting year of imparting unto your students the innumerable benefits of music education, consider heeding the words of Golding’s perhaps most unforgettable character, Miracle Max: “Have fun storming the castle!”

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