Lindsay Morelli is a pre-service music educator completing her graduate studies at The College of Charleston. She blogs about music education here, and you can follow her on twitter @LindsayMorelli.
I seem to learn things the long way. I’ve had blistering sunburns on my face twice because I refuse to accept that sunscreen was necessary. I neglected the concept of online banking until I had overdrafted several times in college. Basically, if it happens once, I won’t realize it’s avoidable until the second or third time around.
My journey into teaching started in a similar fashion.
After succumbing to peer pressure from my friends, I joined the choir my junior year of high school. I had been in orchestra since 4th grade, and considered that my “thing.” I had never been in choir at this point, nor did I have the most spectacular voice, but I was fully capable of holding my own part — so why not audition? It ended up being one of my favorite high school experiences, and, though I didn’t realize it then, it planted a seed for a deeper love of choral music that I’d come to notice later in college.
My high school choir and orchestra teachers always said, “You should definitely go in to education,” to which I would always reply, “Nah, I love being in these ensembles now, but I don’t think I would like teaching at all. I could never do what you do!” They were truly awesome music educators; so awesome that they supported my decision to study music production to pursue my dreams of becoming a record producer.
So off I went to college (to Clemson University) with dreams of being a singer-songwriter who worked in her own studio, writing and recording songs, and ultimately making her own records. I was learning a lot in my classes, and I was also playing in the orchestra and singing in a couple choirs for fun.
Every college freshman measures the success of their first year in overall happiness, and I decided my happiness came from choir and the people involved. I had great friends who made me love singing as much as they did. What more could I ask for?
My sophomore year in choir was even better. My choir director revamped the program a bit, and as an upperclassman and music major, I obtained some leadership responsibilities. While I felt under-qualified, I was happy to do it just because he asked. I had opportunities to lead rehearsal for our chamber choir, and slowly started realizing how much I enjoyed doing so.
If I knew ahead of time that I would be leading a portion of rehearsal, I sat in my room the night before planning exactly what we would work on and studying those passages, noting which voice parts had the theme, which notes in the chords needed to be more prominent, and predicted possible blending issues. I totally geeked out, and I’m not ashamed of that!
I began studying my choir director in rehearsal. Everyone loved him, and I was beginning to see why. He paid attention to detail, but not just with the music. He paid attention to his students. It was clear that he loved leading us, and I loved following him for that reason alone.
“He has the coolest job in the world,” I told my mom.
“Maybe you should look into pursuing that?” my mom suggested.
And so the light bulb turned on. I wanted the coolest job in the world. I wanted to be a choral director.
I finished my degree gaining valuable experience leading choirs, and am now completing my graduate degree in choral music education. I’ll be student teaching this fall with one of the top high school choirs in the state. Those geeky feelings from my college bedroom are still ever so present.
I want to be the kind of teacher that my music teachers were to me. They paid attention to the details. They knew the passages we struggled with, they knew the techniques we needed to strengthen, and they knew the dreams their students had for themselves and shared in those with them. I want to support the dreams of my future students, while giving them the best choral experiences I can offer.
I’m still in touch with my high school orchestra and choir teachers today. When I told them of my new career endeavors, they simply said, “We told you so!” “I know,” I admitted. “I should have seen this coming!”