In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week I wanted to highlight two teachers who have touched my life. To them, teaching isn’t simply a job, it’s a passion! Through their gift of music they are changing the lives of children in a positive way. Portions of this article appeared in the Community Music School of Webster University e-blast in May 2018.
I began taking clarinet lessons at the Community Music School of Webster University (CMS) as a young adult. My teacher, Jeannie York Garesche, helped me with the fundamentals and gave me the confidence as a performer to become a member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony. “Jeanine personalized each lesson, was patient with me and always set high expectations. Through her instruction, mentor-ship and support, I was able to perform at a level I never thought possible!” Over the years Jeanne and I have kept in touch and my husband and I were honored when she accepted the invitation to perform at our wedding. She is a talented professional musician and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study under her.
Music brings a lot of joy to my life and I want my daughter Lillian to grow up appreciating music and having opportunities to express herself musically. So I enrolled Lillian in Kindermusik classes at the CMS when she was 8 months old. Lillian and I enjoy going to class together and we both love her teacher, Ms. Jeanne Magee! “Ms. Jeanne is outstanding! It is clear she is passionate about music and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to child development. She is warm and welcoming and makes learning fun.” Jeanne has a beautiful voice, supports my blog and is one of the sweetest people I have ever met! I consider her a mommy mentor and a friend.
A busy life as a full time mommy, part time educational consultant and active musician have sadly made it challenging for me to continue taking clarinet lessons. Even though I don’t currently study privately, when I perform with the Saint Louis Wind Symphony or the Northwinds Concert Band, I continue to apply what Jeanine taught me. If I ever slow down I hope to study with Jeanine again some day. Lillian has learned to keep a steady beat, recognize loud and soft and often sings the songs or does the dances she has learned in Ms. Jeanne’s class. Lillian is three so we get to enjoy two more years of Kindermusik at the CMS! I will always be grateful to the CMS and their dedicated teachers for providing me and my daughter with quality music instruction.
Teachers often don’t get the opportunity to hear how they have changed lives. So I challenge each of you to take the time to write a note or send an email to a teacher who impacted your life. Let your child’s teacher know how much you appreciate the work they do or encourage your child to write a note or draw a picture. As a former teacher I valued those personal notes far more than any of the lotion, scented candles or coffee mugs I received!
I recently had the privelage of being part of the premier performance of Julie Giroux’s Symphony No. 5 “Heartland Portraits.” This commission was made possible through a generous donation by Pete Poletti, principal tuba and a charter member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony.
The Saint Louis Wind Symphony had the opportunity to rehearse the symphony with Julie, the talented composer, prior to the premiere performance. During the rehearsal Julie would stop the ensemble and explain that she wanted the first movement played at a slower tempo. Later she commented that another part needed to be played softer so we dropped to one player on a part for a few measures. In the second movement she noted that she wanted a louder cymbal crash in a particular measure. It was clear that she was passionate about her work and she listened to every note with clear intent.
Participating in this process made me think that as a composer Julie had “given birth” to the notes on the page and they were truly a part of her, an extension of who she is. She was sharing her raw emotion, her intimate thoughts and feelings. By sharing her work with us she was giving up control and was trusting us to care and love her work as much as she does. Just like a mother who trusts a teacher or caregiver to love and nurture her children when she is away from them. She was trusting us to tell her musical story.
She told the musicians something that day that resinated with me and I find I am reflecting on her words weeks later. She said she didn’t expect us to play every note on the page correctly, noting that no performance is ever perfect. Besides, the audience won’t know if some of the notes aren’t right. What she wanted from us was emotion. Stating that the emotion will move the audience more than playing the right notes. She said, “After all, it is the emotion in life that makes life worth living.”
As a mother I strive to play every note right and make sure I give my daughter enriching experiences where she can learn and grow. I want her to eat healthy foods, live a happy childhood and be well rounded. I often find myself stressing that I am not doing enough for her or that I am making mistakes. For example, should I enroll her in swimming lessons? Sometimes I forget to have her brush her teeth before bed. She goes to bed later than her friends. On play dates she doesn’t like to share. Will she develop poor eating habits after she had a taste of ice cream? The worrisome list goes on and on….
Just like Julie Giroux and her message to us before the premiere performance, deep down I know that I will never play every note right, even with a lot of practice. I can read book after book on parenting and research online but I will still make mistakes and that is ok! My daughter won’t even remember the small imperfections as long as I surround her with my love and support. What is more important is that my daughter knows that her mommy loves her unconditionally, even when she makes mistakes! That she has a mommy who cries with her when she is sad and laughs with her when she finds something amusing. Julie gave me more than the gift of composing a new piece of music that day. She reminded me that I want to be a mommy who isn’t afraid to say I’m sorry and one who focuses on the emotion in the world instead of focusing on the precision of making sure every note is played right.