Area of Study: Music Education
Current City: West Chester, PA
Graduation Date: 2001
Current Occupation: General Music Teacher: Kennett Consolidated School District
Owner: Greensleeves Music
Why did you choose WCU and/or the School of Music?
I moved to West Chester from Boston when I was 12 years old. I was finally starting to appreciate what a beautiful area we lived in when it was time to pick a college, so WCU was at the top of the list. I took a few private percussion lessons with Dr. Chris Hanning to prepare for auditions. I knew that he would be a great professor to study with. I visited a few other colleges, but WCU had the best reputation, staff and campus. It was an easy decision.
How has the quality of education you received from WCU and/or School of Music prepared
you for life after graduation?
As an elementary school general music teacher, I came to my first day of work with a binder full of diverse, ready to use lesson plans. I had classroom experience from field study and student teaching, and I felt prepared to step in front of the students. Later, I filled out my part time position by adding elementary strings to my schedule. I had resources and experiences to draw from. I was able to teach proper technique and run ensembles thanks to the thorough musical foundation from my days in the Swope music building. I received a Master of the Arts in Education with a focus in technology. Continuing education is vital for a good educator. I consider Dr. Jacoby and the education department and facility an incredible resource for staying current in technological and educational trends. As owner of the music lesson business, Greensleeves Music, I feel equipped to share my educational knowledge with my young teachers. I am able to assess applicants' musical abilities, but more importantly their understanding of learning and teaching. The WCU music education program has a strong emphasis on effective educational methodologies and pedagogical techniques that I draw from every day.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me starts with a run up to the YMCA for a quick workout. Living in the borough of West Chester has many such perks. If I leave myself enough time, I may sit down for breakfast with my family, but eating a cliff bar in the car is more likely. I'll check my email and try to stay caught up with the my Greensleeves work of matching students up with members of our teaching team. Then its off to Bancroft Elementary School in Kennett Square to teach general music class to first through fifth graders. I love my work directing the chorus and Orff Ensemble as well. Kennett Square is a diverse, vibrant community, and students and staff at Bancroft are a pleasure to work with. After school is family time for me. I typically spend time with my four and six year old children, while my wife Leigh takes the opportunity to get caught up on her work. This includes Greensleeves billing and recital planning, as well as her own writing projects like resume writing and content and copy for real estate and small businesses. After family dinner, which may or may not be at the Iron Hill in town (did I mention that I love being in the borough of West Chester?), its time to wind down and get the kids to bed. Depending on my energy level at this point, I may crank out a few more emails, practice the vibraphone for an upcoming gig, or hopefully just relax with Leigh on the couch for the latest Netflix binge.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to enter your field?
Most people know that teaching is both difficult and rewarding work. I have found over the years that my success, and the success that I can perceive from others, comes mainly from having the right attitude. Expect changes. Expect busy work. Expect challenging students. Don't be discouraged when these things arise. This is the job that you signed up for. Do your best with a positive attitude and these things will feel like opportunities to excel and to reach kids that others may not. This is where you grow as a musician, educator and professional. The community knows who the dedicated teachers are. Be one of them.
What advice would you give to our graduating seniors?
The WCU school of music has given you an exceptional foundation to build upon. However for educators, you are not done learning. Beyond graduate work (you know you get a pay raise as you accumulate graduate credits, right?!) you must continue to be a student. You will have 1000s of students in a teaching career, and all of them will be different. Your ability to reach all of them will be directly related to the work you put in. Read the IEPs, pay attention in faculty meetings and in-service trainings, and buy in to your building's or district's initiatives. A lot of educational trends are reworded versions of the old methods. But staying on top of the terms and techniques will make your principal happy and will help you to be the best you can be. If you are planning a career in performance, be ready for the grind. Talent is a small portion of success in this field. Take every gig you can handle and be prepared. Balance your passion projects and the gigs that pay the best. Be ready to be your own promoter, manager and book keeper. It's all about the hustle. This is true for people starting a business as well.
What makes the WCU School of Music standout to you?
The WCU school of music has many fields of study for potential students to choose from. They have an exceptional staff and program for not only music performance and education (instrumental and vocal), but also in technology, music history and jazz studies. It's a world class program. You couldn't ask for a school to be in a cooler small town. Campus is minutes from both a bustling downtown, and scenic fields and hiking trails. Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington D.C, and Philadelphia are all within a reasonable driving distance. It's a great place to live.
What is your favorite memory of being a student at WCU and/or School of Music?
Being a member of the percussion ensemble was a highlight every year for me. At the end of the school year, the ensemble went on tour to area elementary and middle schools. We had rehearsed the music for weeks at that point, but Dr. Hanning would continue to make tweaks and improvements and the shows got better as the week went on. With multiple schools and performances each day, and travel in a 15 passenger van, the ensemble had a real bonding experience that made or solidified life-long friendships.
What's the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn't learn from your resume
During my honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, I rescued two young girls who were swept out in the ocean by a strong undertow. They had on life jackets so they were floating farther and farther away. I heard yelling from the villa we were staying in, so I went to see what was happening. There was a beach full of people, but no one was doing anything other than yelling. When I walked over, several people urged me to go out and save them. I grabbed someone's boogie board and swam out. I was exhausted before I got passed the waves, but was able to grab the girls and put them on the board. I didn't get very far, while trying to hold them and swim with my feet against the current. Eventually the foot-patrolling life guard came running to the beach and swam out to help. We both made it in with one girl. The parents thanked me and left and everyone went back on their way. It was a surreal experience.