You Got a Degree In Music Education, But You Do What Now?!?

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Oh, the disappointments of life… they are bitches.

Becoming a music teacher has been my dream job since sophomore year of high school. But to be quite honest, I did it out of vengeance. See, unlike most of my music major friends, my high school band director wasn’t remotely inspiring, nurturing, or particularly talented. In fact, he was a downright grumpy little, bald headed, hobbit of a man/trumpet player that continually pushed my buttons.

After telling him I wanted to be a music teacher during a trying lesson, he continually used the fact against me. But the tipping point was when I was late and unprepared to a lesson my junior year (that I wasn’t even supposed to be at because of a field trip). When I told him that my clarinet was in my locker upstairs, he freaked out on me and began to use the “How could you ever think of becoming a music teacher if you are constantly under prepared… etc.” I, being 16 and still holding out hope that he’d be my mentor in the end, cried and then I did the boldest thing I had ever done up until that point (yes, I was that lame in school)…

I shouted back, “Well, one day I am going to become a music teacher, a fucking great one, and you’ll see. YOU’LL SEE!”

Oddly enough, I didn’t get detention or a referal… just two years straight of constant underhanded teacher revenge and more seething, “How could you be a music teacher if…” comments.

Two years later, I was in college, making my dream come true. I pushed through a lot, most which my regular facebook directed readers will understand. Music history papers, theory exams, conducting with Sue, ALL of K-hell… being a music major is tough stuff. It constantly tries your talent (lessons with Gail) and will power (life lessons with Gail). And the disappointments are aplenty. But I made it. I had two wonderful student teaching placements and then I was out in the field within the next year.

However, some life choices (aka a boy) played a role in taking a job in the suburbs that paid significantly less or a job down south that paid enough to be comparable. When I decided to stay for the boy, I took the job that I would constantly struggle to “make it with.” And while I loved my years a grade-middle school general music teacher, I couldn’t afford to do it anymore. That’s the complete truth. Life happened and the money didn’t follow. I had to go elsewhere.

I did try to find other teaching jobs. I even had a couple of fruitful interviews. But in the end, I looked elsewhere.

And that’s when I found my current job. I’m a program assistant. It’s a fancy way of saying that I do pretty much everything in my department. From secretarial duties, planning events, holding the student’s hands as they register for classes, and assisting in marketing and strategy planning.. I have a job that could totally open other doors for me if I continue on in higher education. Plus, the benefits are insane, the pay up to par, and I get to live in the city that I love.

Do I miss teaching? Of course. Almost every day. Now that most of my friends have graduated and most have landed teaching jobs, it hurts even more so.

But this post isn’t to those lucky few. Nope this is to the ones who have graduated, but are still looking or those who went a year or two and decided to go elsewhere… What I am trying to say is that there is life outside the classroom. And it’s certainly ok that we tried, even if what we have to show for it is nill to little. In the end, we will always be music teachers because it is in our blood. We spent four years learning how to tighten strings, composing a 10 bar Bach piece, and struggling over fake lesson plans. We spent a semester student teaching in a foreign classroom after 150 hours of just watching. And we all had to deal with our fair share of prejudiced and just plan terrible music teachers.

Oh, and some of us had to play La Fiesta Mexicana, patriotic music, and Sleigh Ride at least 4 times.

That, my friend, should be enough.

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