Where Do You Get Your Joy?

Thomas Palmatier • November 2023Perspective • November 1, 2023

I recently bought a new car. I realize for most people, that’s not an unusual occurrence but I belong to the “drive it until the wheels fall off” club and my previous car was only two years old. We’re often told the best way to improve your life is to get rid of things that don’t bring you joy. Now, I’m not a “car guy.” I just want a vehicle to get me from Point A to Point B reliably and inexpensively. But I realized I really disliked my old car, and it brought me no joy, so I got rid of it.

So, what does this have to do with a magazine for teachers and performers of music? We are privileged to be involved in two activities that can bring great satisfaction and joy to us: teaching young people and making music. Does this mean you should expect to leap out of bed every single morning anxious to get to work? Realistically not, but hopefully, the relationships you have built with your students will sustain you on the days when you’re just not feeling the music and the joy of making music will sustain you on the days when you (we all have these days) wish it was a teacher planning day with no students.

Are you wondering how I arrived at this amazing formula to achieve years of joy in your job? I was in the Army for 13,723 days (that’s 37 years, six months, 29 days). Do you think I jumped into my boots every day giddy about being a soldier? Hardly. Do you think I went into every single rehearsal completely pumped up for it? No. But when someone asked me once how I was in for so long and was still so happy, it occurred to me that having two ways to derive joy meant that nearly every day one of them would apply and on lots of days, both would be true. I was recently asked when I was going to retire. I found the question to be baffling. I direct a community band, own and manage a ballet school, edit a magazine I love, substitute teach, see my grandkids every day, and guest conduct around the country. That’s 365 days of joy a year.

Find the things that bring you joy in your profession as a teacher of music and revel in them. 

It’s the time of year when some of your graduating students are considering whether to study music and where to do so. As teachers, providing wise and factual advice is one of the most important things we can do. Do you have a student who wants to major in music performance who you know doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the professional performing world? You have an obligation to tell them and their parents the truth. Don’t overlook the many, many careers in music other than teaching or performing. I ended up at the Crane School of Music because my private teacher and my band director recommended it, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Do the same for your students.

Col. (Ret.) Thomas Palmatier

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