“It is much more important who is the music teacher in Kisvárda than who is the director of the opera house in Budapest…for a poor director fails once, but a poor teacher keeps on failing for 30 years, killing the love of music in 30 batches of children.”
– Zoltan Kodaly
As a music educator, the above quote reminds me of the important responsibility I have towards my students. It provides me with a standard to aspire to. I would add to the quote that I aim to ignite in my students a love and appreciation of many styles of music from many cultures.
In 2004, I made a decision to leave an 8-year career as a financial planner and investment advisor to return to my roots in music. My early college studies were in jazz saxophone and piano as a music performance major at Five Towns College in Long Island, New York. I had kept a connection to music, but it often gave way to my business career. This was not satisfying. I also noticed that the part of the financial planning career I enjoyed the most involved counseling people to meet their financial goals and making presentations to clients and other professionals. It was becoming clear to me that being a teacher was of great interest to me. Perhaps you could even say it was a “calling.”
I decided to combine my love of music and growing interest in teaching by applying to the NYC Teaching Fellows program.
This program fast-tracked me to becoming a teacher in 6-weeks. This was not adequate training, but I was determined to become the best teacher I could. Earlier in my educational career, I had completed a Masters degree in Liberal Studies at NYU. Now, I was was placed, through the Fellows program, in Mercy College to complete my second masters degree, a Masters in Education, which I completed in 2006 (Proudly with a 4.0 GPA). This program was not in music education, but rather, in general elementary education. I needed more training in how to teach music. So, I began to enroll in summer institutes to develop my skills as a music educator.
- Summer of 2005: I completed Level I of the Orff-Schulwerk Method at the Eastman School of Music.
- Summer of 2006 – 2008: I completed all 4 levels of my Kodaly Certification at the NYU Kodaly Institute.
- Summer of 2013: I completed Levels I & II of “Conversational Solfege” with John Feirerabend, at West Chester University’s Samuel Barber Institute
- Summer of 2013: I completed a course in “Choral Pedagogy” at Westminster Choir College.
For 9 years I worked in the South Bronx, most recently at PS35x. While I loved my students and colleagues there, I was presented with an opportunity to take over a position at a school much closer to where I live: PS126/MAT in Manhattan. This September, I began there as the Pre-K through 4th grade general music teacher and also the chorus teacher for grades 6, 7, and 8. It’s an incredible place to work. I have been welcomed by the staff and administration and look forward to being there for a long time.
I continue to perform weekly (and practice, daily) as a tenor and soprano saxophonist, mostly as a jazz musician. I also sing baritone and bass with the Glass Menagerie Chorus, led by one of my Kodaly teacher’s Dr. Susan Glass. To me, as a music educator, it’s important to keep a connection to performing music on the highest level possible.
The only thing more important than my teaching and performing is my amazing family: My talented and generous son Aiden, who plays cello, sings in the National Children’s Chorus, and loves being creative; My beautiful wife Lelet, who is supportive of all of my education and performing activities; and my brothers Billy, Scott, Matthew, and Todd as well as my parents Mark and Lana. (I have to also mention my awesome nephews David and James and my their mom, my longtime friend and sister-in-law Cristi).