Upbeat – Mindset, Mindfulness, and Leadership in Music Education and Beyond

Jon Bubbett • Bubbett's BookshelfDecember 2022 • December 15, 2022

The word “upbeat” has more than one meaning.  To most people, it means having a positive outlook, being cheerful, and being optimistic. If you are a musician, then you also know the “upbeat” is a preparatory gesture in conducting. The “upbeat” in life, like the “upbeat” in music, is all in how you prepare for it. Dr. Arau uses this analogy throughout his book and offers insights on taking care of ourselves and leading others.

This book is divided into three sections:




After each section, you will find

Application –  a series of actions for the reader to take to further engage with the concepts and ideas in each section.

Journal Questions – a series of questions designed to guide the reader in keeping a journal.

Quotes – several inspirational quotes from a variety of people that reflect on the concepts and ideas of each section. 

He reminds us that “what we choose to focus on affects how we perceive our circumstances and impacts the people in our lives.”

Part One: Ignite!

This section focuses on choosing your “upbeat,” the power of changing our mindset from “I have to…” to “I get to…,” the importance of starting each day with a positive attitude, and recognizing we can control our attitude, and how to sustain that positive flow of energy throughout the day. His concept of G.E.T. is very simple and yet very powerful in changing a reactionary mindset to a responsive one. Self-care is extremely important, including practicing mindfulness, nutrition, exercise, and how we talk to ourselves are all critical to our well-being and avoiding “burnout.” Choosing who we socialize with is another critical component of maintaining an “upbeat” outlook.

“How we choose to conduct ourselves not only determines our future but makes a difference in the lives of others.”

“Choose to focus on what you get to do and what you can do rather than on what you can’t do.”

Part Two: Inspire!

This section focuses on transferring skills and techniques into the classroom with a focus on mindset, mindfulness, and culture.

Upbeat Mindset

“When we have an upbeat mindset, we are excited and look forward to learning, growing, and challenges.”

Altering our language and how we communicate with our students is also an important part of developing an upbeat classroom:

“The words yet or not yet can be used effectively in our praise language, as in You are close, but you are not there yet.”

Mindfulness in the Classroom

There are many benefits of including mindfulness in our rehearsal settings in an intentional way. Starting rehearsals with breathing exercises not only prepares our bodies for the breath necessary to make great music but it also relaxes and sensitizes the ensemble for the music-making process. 

“Practicing mindfulness is an act of self-compassion, and by integrating mindfulness into the classroom, we extend that compassion to our students.”

Allowing for moments of stillness in our daily music-making is also practicing mindfulness. 


Creating positive and productive cultures is one of the most important aspects of our teaching careers. Several ideas are discussed pertaining to the impact of the teacher on classroom culture and even beyond the classroom. Dr. Arau also explores the impact students have on the classroom culture and how to sustain the culture. 

“A positive culture is one in which the teacher has high expectations for each student. Positive teachers don’t just see students where they are in the present; they see where students are headed in the future.”

Part Three: Lead!

In this section, leadership ideas are presented on how to further empower our students by creating an environment where they are more motivated, more inspired, and more engaged. 

The Five Levels of Leadership 

1. Tell Others What to DO, 

2. Invite Others to Do Something, 

3. Do the Task with Those You Are Leading, 

4. Ask Those You Are Leading for Input, and 

5. Empower Others to Lead 

“Leadership is about serving others and leading by example.”

“Leadership is inspiring and encouraging others to achieve their full potential.”

The 4 “C’s” of leadership, character, competence, connection, and clarity, are thought-provoking and helpful to understanding how to improve not only our students’ lives but our own as well.

Arau’s book is a wonderfully inspiring on many levels and is a valuable resource for any educator. 

“Let’s dream together of the difference we will make by sharing the beauty of music while helping our students discover what already lies within.”

By Matthew Arau

GIA Publications, Inc; 365pp

Dr. Matthew Arau is a regular contributor to SBO+. Jon Bubbett is a lifelong music educator who is a widely published composer for school bands.

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