Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

To the two high school students who started teaching Diana and Calypso trumpet and violin respectively, thank you for being so enthusiastic and positive. Thank you for being an example of joy. Thank you for carving time out of your busy teenage lives between school and socializing to give something to some younger kids. To the young lady who taught violin, thank you especially for being so incredibly creative and effective at communicating technique in a way that made sense to a 7 year old. Although you've each graduated long ago and moved on I hope you are still enjoying music.

To the music teacher who ran preschool classes for Isaac and who later taught Calypso piano, thank you for your unending patience with wiggly little boys who picked their noses and wanted to turn the rhythm sticks and blocks into swords and cars. Thank you for making them giggle and look forward to the class. Thank you for setting expectations for Calypso and requiring follow through but for being positive in the way you did that. Thank you also for later on when this old mama wanted to learn guitar and you were equally patient and encouraging with someone who felt incredibly self-conscious about her faltering efforts.

To the trumpet teacher with a PhD who gave an 8th grader the chance to play a solo in a recital with college students, thank you for giving her such a sweet opportunity. Thank you for patiently helping her work through the aggravation of playing with brand new braces when her mouth was killing her.

To the oboe/clarinet teacher whose bubbly personality and easy giggles got Calypso laughing with her when the reeds squeaked and squawked, thank you for using humor to diffuse tension. Thank you for giving her useful feedback for an instrument her school band director couldn't help her on very much.

To the band director in the Middle School, thank you for doing a thankless job. I tend to think your job must be a bit like herding cats when you try to get everyone to play together. I suspect it must at least sound like that for the first half of the year when they try to play together. That that a bunch of 10 year olds can all produce a few discernible tunes including harmonies by the end of the year is an impressive a feat as anything a professional orchestra can produce. Kudos to you for getting them there.

To my stepmother, thank you for paying for all sorts of lessons over the years because you know a single income family doesn't always have a lot of extra money laying around and you wanted your grandchildren to have the freedom to explore and develop different skills. Thank you for your generosity and for giving them opportunities neither you nor I had. Thank you for giving that gift without conditions on what sorts of lessons it had to be spent on. It just happened that more often than not the kids chose music.

To my mom, thank you for making a 2 and a half hour round trip just to come to concerts on a week night and be back home for work the next day. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for gladly making that sacrifice to celebrate their efforts and enjoy the fruits of those efforts.

To the band directors and assistants in the Junior High and High School, you all are a musically proficient bunch who bring ensembles together to give some really impressive concerts and marching band shows but that's where my praise ends. You're a surly bunch of elitists who play favorites in such egregious ways it's disheartening to great numbers of your students. It's pretty sad commentary when your teenage students describe their frustration by saying, "I'm tired of a bunch of 40-somethings throwing temper tantrums like 3 year olds." Grow the hell up and realize that you need to set a decent example. Even the students who don't intend to pursue music as a career deserve your best effort. This is an elective activity. Those kids wouldn't be there if they didn't have some sort of love for music. Drive enough of them away and you'll loose a job, the department will be eliminated, and no one will have the opportunity except those rich enough to do everything privately....or maybe that's your goal?

To the private voice teacher who has been working with Calypso for the last year, thank you for sharing your tremendous technical expertise with us. You have experiences and skills we have not encountered before. Thank you also for being flexible about scheduling and location. However, your epic freakout on my daughter last week was completely out of line. For all your ranting about professionalism and respect you abandoned both of those principles when her back was literally against the wall while you shouted right in her face. And how dare you put your hands on my child in anger! Your words were harsh, belittling, and served no purpose other than to make her feel small so you could feel bigger.

To my daughters who trudged joylessly through a concert last night because of the way they've been beaten down lately, reflect on the long line of those who showed you music is a place of refuge and a thing of beauty and gladness. Illegitimi non carborundum.


furiousBall said...

as a guitar teacher myself, this reinforcement is vital that you've offered here. music is good stuff.

S said...

Bravo, Lime.

My daughters Jr High music teacher is nothing short of a whiney little bratfaced snob who picks the lamest music for the kids to suffer through and then berates them for not being perfect.

She is also in choir and while LR has soloed twice in performances, and we are so proud, as you are of your Calypso and her singing solo last year, the song choices were PAINFUL.

Music forever!

NYD said...

I knew you were going somewhere with this.

Every teacher feels intense frustration at some point in their career, but it is so important to remember that one negative outburst can ruin months, maybe years of effort and kill the desire to continue on the path of enlightenment.
Harsh words are at times neccessary, but belittlement never.

Desmond Jones said...

Oof. So sorry for yer girls. I, too, am grateful that my parents saw fit to give me the gift of musical training - it has benefitted me is so many ways, and all I've ever really 'made' from it is a few free wedding dinners, back in the day. . .

And, sometimes I swear, you and I are channeling the same spirit, or something. I'm all the time dropping the 'illegitimi' line on my kids (altho, when I'm ranting to Molly about the kids, she's always quick to point out that they are, in point of fact, 'legitimi')

lecram said...

Sorry your girls had to endure unpleasantness leading to the concert.

Jazz said...

To Lime's daughters: Listen to your mom. She's a wise woman.

lime said...

furiousball, aren't you the one who taught a kindergartener to play smoke on the water? and i've seen viv rockin' out the organ. i have no doubt your students get lots of joy.

s, ack, i am sorry LR has some real clunker teachers too

nyd, oh yes, frustration is part of the deal, but like you said the far reaching spirit crushing behavior has GOT to be kept in check.

desmond, there's a joke in there about you and i being the illegitimi but i won't go there :P

lecram, thanks. it made me well up knowing they were not really enjoying it and why.

jazz, thank you for the kind words.


Suldog said...

Very nice, Lime. The folks who teach music (and teach the FUN of music) too often are not thanked profusely enough. Good job.

truckdriver_sefl said...

Awesome post!! Well said!

Kat said...

What a sweet post. It brings tears to my eyes.
Well, except for the part about the voice teacher. That makes me mad. And from my personal experience it seems that most voice teachers are harpies. Grrr.

Hope the kids can find joy and solace in music again.

lime said...

suldog, this started out as lament/rant about the frustration i feel with recent situations but i realized there were so many really good folks who did so much in laying the foundations, which i hope remain strong.

trucker, thanks

kat, i hope so too.

david mcmahon said...

Music is a very important part of my family's fabric.

I understand.

Anonymous said...

wow! a music teacher physically acting out in anger?? that's WAY not ok!

Yay for you and your daughters for trudging through the tempest!

Desmond Jones said...

See, and your comment above to Suldog is one of the really admirable things about you, my friend. . .

One illegitimus to another (or, I s'pose you'd be more of an 'illegitima', but who's keeping that close a track of things?)

Cocotte said...

Yikes! Sorry to hear it took a turn for the worse in high school.

misticblu said...

Oh no! but it seems you are handling it gracefully, always setting a good example even if others don't.
They SO have to feel validated at that age, as sometimes little things can bring the house down. My daughter suffered through a career ending drama coach change.... I felt helpless.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar list of music teachers I'm thankful for. But yikes about the last one! Your poor girl!

Ella said...

some people have no clue how they can affect the lives of others - positive and negative. i'd say it's worth it to find those good eggs from the past and let them know the impact they had. it would surprise the heck out of them and lift them up in unimagineable ways - not to mention what it would do for you and the limelets to know the smile you put on their faces. as for the asswipes at the end? i'd be tempted to tell them too that they are asswipes.

when i was in middle school, i played the flute in 6th grade but in 7th grade they needed a bassoon player. the band director asked me if i'd be willing to basically teach myself to play since i'd picked up the flute so easily the year before. sure. no problem. only the 2nd half of the year, HE became that same kind of asswipe. i switched to chorus the next year and haven't touched a flute or bassoon ever since.

Hilary said...

So well done, Lime. It reminded me of my own childhood experience of being yelled at by a piano teacher. I never tried again after that incident. I'm so glad that my son's experiences have been wonderful throughout. This is a great reminder to be grateful for those who help instill this love for music in us. It's just so important. Thank YOU for a fine post.

lime said...

david, glad to hear it on both counts. thanks

mssolitaire, you and i are of the same opinion then

desmond, thank you kindly

cocotte, that has been an on going frustration.

misticblu, i really wish people would consider more carefully the devastation they can cause

citizen, the good ones are gems

ella, well a bad third grade teacher put me off clarinet forever

hilary, i'm sorry for your experience too but glad your son has been blessed

Laurel said...

Ohhh, the Mama Bear hackles are up! Why do people have to act in such boorish ways toward kids? Do they not realize the influence they have?

But really, what I'm more curious about - what was your outward reaction, especially to the person who got more physical? How did you not get all Mama Bear on their arses?

Moosekahl said...

Hugs! It frustrates me to hear of music teachers who take the last bit of joy in school age music out of it. SO many schools have cut PE and music completely from their programs and now the few schools still able to fund a music program have to struggle with the elitists and know it alls who think they are somehow special b/c they teach school age music instead of understanding they are privileged just to have the opportunity to help keep music alive. Ok...I think I'm about to fall asleep on my soap box. But thank you as a Mom for encouraging music in the lives of your children.

Cath said...

Music is the food of the soul.

Excellent post. Well written. Congrats on POTD!

Pouty Lips said...

My two main refuges are music and blogging (and everything that goes into like photography, writing, editing, creating). The best thing is when I can enjoy them together. How dare bad teachers take the chance of crippling our children for life emotionally. Bravo for taking a stand. Congrats on POTD.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, frick. I'm reading this now, knowing how carefully you have harnessed your emotions. My father spent more than 40 years as a vocal professor and gave private lessons at his college and in our home for all those years, too. And it KILLS me, in the memory of who he was with his students, that a teacher would do that to your girl.

lime said...

laurel, first i was just in shock but i managed to stay calm and get her hands OFF my daughter without pounding the woman, which is what i really wanted to do. when i got home i had a private meltdown.

moosekahl, i have no use for the people who suck every ounce of joy out of elective activities that should be enriching a person's life.

cath, thank you very kindly

pouty, blogging has very much become a refuge

jocelyn, like i said, i was in complete and utter shock. thanks to your dad for being the kind of teacher he was and to you for the support.