On Friday, Oct 5th I was invited to visit the Chesapeake Charter School to give a trombone lesson to two 12-year-old middle school kids. This was the first time I had given any sort of traditional and professional instruction to music students, so I was pretty excited. This school has the impressive ability, especially in the struggling nature of arts education in the United States at the moment, to require every student to participate in the arts and play an instrument.
Before arriving, I had no idea what to expect out of this lesson. Would I be able to express what I have learned over the past 12 years studying the trombone in a way they would understand? Would they even listen to me?
I checked in at the school late afternoon and was introduced to the students. Because they had just picked up the trombone this September I had an idea of what I wanted to go over with them. It was very exciting to have this opportunity to instill the basic fundamentals I had learned onto them, so they could become better players…hopefully. I covered the correct way to hold the trombone, mouthpiece placement, and even breathing. The two students were surprisingly receptive to all of my instruction, and eager to learn even if some of it was over their heads. They were also very polite, which made teaching easier for me.
I found that some good ways to bring home requirements for strong fundamentals and characteristics of a trombone player were: to explain, play it first myself, play it with them, and repeat. For the more advanced ideas that might have been over their heads, it was better to use more simple analogies.
After the allotted time they had available in their day to study music, I was invited to have the chance to come back and continue to teach as a substitute music teacher and continue to study with the other low brass students. It was great to hear the feedback from the band director that after the first lesson I gave, it was decent enough to continue teaching.
At this moment I realized what a special opportunity I had. After just a few hours as an arts educator I began to understand the overwhelming feeling that I was already an inspiration for these students. In the small time I had with them, I was able to shape the beginnings of the arts education these students were going to receive. I have a new found responsibility to be an inspiration to these two middle school kids and help them continue the study of the trombone. Maybe its just because they are joining the “low brass team”, but my hope for them is to be college bound lifelong learners, involved in the arts. I can only hope that however many times I get the chance to teach them that they do not want to give up playing.
I believe it is important for students to have the ability to engage in all forms of art; some children will even excel in the arts before they excel in other subjects. Once they experience success musically, my hope is that the desire for artistic expression will be contagious.
It was a proud moment to be at the beginning of the road of something that will engage the thinking of these two young musicians, and morph the art that will one day become their own.