Friday, January 11, 2013

Nostalgia and Decisions

As you know, I'm kind of thorough about how I keep track of the music to which I listen. I have a playlist, called "Top Rated," which keeps all of the tracks that are marked 4-star (best of a particular genre of music) or 5-star (best performance / musical work / sentimental meaning) only. Each January, I spend a month or so listening to my favorite pieces of music. Most years, that list has remained unchanged; I've knocked out a few that have lost their meaning or added a few that have gained some meaning.

Many of the performances that arise are performances of a band I directed, or chorus I directed, or works that I performed either as a band or chorus member. This year, I completed my first year of 50-weeks working - no summer break, no Christmas break, straight through with the two week vacation time that most of America has. So, it wasn't surprising that I felt a bit of nostalgia as some of those numbers scrolled through the playlist.

Last month, I spoke with one of my friends, who is a teacher. This person told me that they were envious that I had left the teaching profession and seem to have found a niche for myself: a job where I'm valued, with measurable standards, and colleagues that have some respect for what I do. This person has been trying to figure out a way out of a dying profession (and make no mistake: education, as we know it, is a dying profession) without losing everything. It's hard to do, with a spouse and children and a mortgage. Look at what it took for me! Granted, this person and I have had this discussion many times before, and I had this discussion with my wife back when we were still living in Michigan. This isn't news.

I look back on my time teaching with fondness and some regret: the regret that things didn't work out better, that circumstances became so unmanageable, that I wasn't a little more mature and a little more professional when those around me were immature and unprofessional. I am very, very proud of my former students and their accomplishments; if I can be considered a small help to most of them, then I'm ecstatic about that and know that I really made a difference. I know there are some music teachers that wouldn't have been music teachers or musicians if it wasn't for me. This isn't news, though.

I finally was able to put a name on my nostalgia: the end of a relationship. I look back at my time teaching like I might look back at an ex-girlfriend.
(Caveat: I don't really remember what an ex-girlfriend is like, considering that
its been more than 12 years since I had any kind of a date with anybody else other than my beautiful and wonderful wife. I'm kind of going by muscle memory, here.)

I look back at my teaching career, and I look back at my woodwinds career like that ex-girlfriend. She's beautiful and sexy and alluring, and you know why you fell in love with her at the beginning. But, you also remember the immense work it took to maintain, and you remember how awful the breakup and end times were. So, while you can enjoy your memories and enjoy the aesthetics involved, you know that you've moved on to the next place in life.
I definitely don't want to teach anymore. I don't want to be in a classroom in front of kids on an every day basis. I don't want to have to deal with principals, and parents, and curriculum supervisors, and boards of education, and standardized testing, and the other extraneous crap that's dragging down the profession. But I appreciate its beauty: how wonderful the relationships with the students are, how wonderful the relationships with those special parents (talking to you, Patsy), how those colleagues that got into the trenches with you are friends for life.

The door isn't necessarily closed. Maybe I'll help out my sons' music programs as we're going through; maybe I'll get the itch to play my woodwinds again; maybe I'll help the high school marching band, if they need an extra body on the field for band camp. The next time I walk through it, though, it won't be as a professional. It'll be as an amateur - you know, one who does it from love.

I like the sound of that. Teaching and playing from love. I can get used to that. Imagine: a banker who makes music in the off hours.

Over the next couple of weeks, I have some decisions to make at my job - decisions that can take me down one oath or another. The good part? Either way, I'll be working with some neat people, learning some cool stuff, and getting to stretch my skills further. That's a good thing. The future is bright for us right now. There is a lot of hope going forwards, and that's a good thing. I think 2013 is going to be a great year for The Musical Family.

Here's The Boy playing with some superheroes:

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