Category Archives: Music

When I grow up, I want to be a …

Do you remember that moment as a kid when your eyes lit up; when your mind started racing with ideas; when you got so excited you had to tell your friends or your parents; when you realized what your passion was … the moment you knew exactly what you wanted to do when you “grew up”?

I vividly recall sitting in band class as a 7th grader and thinking, “This is it! I want to be a music teacher! I want to give students the amazing musical experiences and opportunities that I’ve been given!”

Fast forward to age 29 … I had graduated from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA, with a B.A. in Music Education as well as a Secondary Teaching Credential, worked for two years as an intermediate school choir director in a public school, then unexpectedly quit my “dream” job three days before my third year was going to start. (Read why in my previous post.I had no particular plans and no job prospects. We needed money to pay our bills, so not working was simply not an option.

Out of practicality, I became a  Starbucks Barista (a.k.a. order taker and drink maker). It was fun for awhile – two months, actually – but certainly not my passion. Then I moved on to a yarn store. I enjoyed becoming a better knitter, but again, not my passion! (I like how my friend, Amy, said it: “You like an interest, you live a passion.“)

During that year, I began to really question what I wanted for my life and my career. Did I want others to control when and where I worked, or did I want to set my own hours and location? Did I want to work as an underdog, or did I want to excel and be considered an expert in my field? Did I want to let my education and years of learning be wasted, or take advantage of all the knowledge and experience I had gained in many varied musical experiences? Did I want to just survive, or did I want to thrive?

The day I quit, I dared to believe that my dream job could be something other than what I had always imagined it would be. Maybe I wouldn’t be a classroom music teacher, but maybe I could still find a career that encompassed the heart of what I had dreamed about as a kid. I started to explore what my real passion was.

Remember what I said as a 7th grader? “I want to give students the amazing musical experiences and opportunities that I’ve been given!”

I loved seeing my students light up when they “got it.” I loved sharing my love of music. I loved helping my students gain self-confidence and grow in their musical abilities and skills. I loved being able to share all the knowledge I had learned. I loved giving my students positive experiences. I loved providing musical opportunities for my students that they might not have had otherwise.

I slowly came to realize that I didn’t have to be a classroom teacher to accomplish those things, despite having dreamed about it for 17 years. That may seem like a long time to go down the wrong path, but ironically, I actually had my dream job for six years before I taught public school!

Here’s what happened … I began teaching private piano (and sometimes flute) lessons in 1996 during my years at Vanguard University. I would drive to students’ homes most afternoons and conduct 30-60 minute lessons. The next year I was hired by the Old Towne Academy at the First United Methodist Church of Orange, CA, to teach piano and flute lessons. I had a growing business and continued to gain students during my six years of private teaching. But, I gave up that “job” to fulfill my dream of teaching classroom music, always assuming that it would quench my desires for a “real career” in my area of expertise and passion.

We all have dreams and goals as kids. They are great motivators and guides for many of our choices. I had taken a detour along the way to fulfilling my original dream, only to find out that the detour was actually much more in line with my true passions and desires for how I wanted to live my life!

But the frustrations and disappointments I experienced were an integral part of my choice to go back to private teaching. I would have always kicked myself if I hadn’t become a classroom teacher. It’s what I dreamed about! (I’m so thankful for the challenging experiences in life that bring into focus what our true longings are.)

So, after quitting the classroom and taking a year off, I decided to go back. I began my true career – teaching private piano and flute lessons.  Three years later, I had a professional studio of over 50 students a week. I set my own hours and worked from home. I was an expert in my field and was sharing the wealth of knowledge I had gained. I was giving my students many positive musical experiences and seeing the light go on when they learned something new or achieved a goal. In short, I was finally thriving!

I had made a choice.

I created the life that I truly wanted!



Filed under Life Journal, Music, Music Education

Dream Job … or Nightmare?

“Isn’t it great? You’re getting two choir classes this year! They will both be mixed choirs from all grades!” My vice principal smiled as she informed me three days before the new school year was starting.

This was horrible news! I had just spent two years restructuring the intermediate school’s choirs to build a growing program. The students were actually enjoying singing – and doing it pretty well. I was crushed!

After a fantastic second year, my program was cut in half and I would be teaching more math classes. Yes, I had a credential for it, but my passion is music! I had dreamed about teaching classroom music since the 7th grade!

Back up two years to 2002 … I accepted my first teaching job at a public intermediate school in Santa Ana, CA, for choir and math (being assured that math would take second fiddle to music). I started with three choirs (grade 6 girls, grades 7-8 girls, and grades 6-8 boys), one intro to music class, and three grade 7 math classes.

My first year was extremely difficult, as many of you teachers know! Discipline problems abounded, too many hours were spent creating curriculum, exhausted evenings and weekends had given way to grading, I had no time for a social life, and “volunteer” after-school commitments were expected. Ugh! Was that really what I wanted for my life?

But I stuck it out and entered the second year with renewed hope for a better year. After some negotiation, I was given three choirs with a full-time accompanist (beginning girls gr. 6-7, advanced girls gr. 7-8, and boys gr. 6-8), two intro to music classes, and only two math classes. I had a discipline plan ready (that worked extremely well!), could use last year’s curriculum (mostly), and set personal boundaries for work hours. Things were looking good!

My students were loving choir and enrollment was growing. Discipline wasn’t even an issue anymore – we actually got to sing! Performances were fun. We traveled to a festival and completed several fundraisers to get there. I also started a 5th grade after school choir later in the year.

Well, being at a low performance public school in Santa Ana meant a lot of program cuts. This translated into my third year dilemma of less music and more math. Unfortunately, our administration did not provide class schedules to any teachers until a day or two before the new year started (and student lists were given out the first morning of school!). I had to track down the VP on a Friday afternoon to get an idea of what I was planning for Monday! So, after hearing the news, I went home frustrated and disheartened.

I had heard from many other teachers that in the teaching profession you could expect the following: a first year nightmare (check!), a little more confidence after completing your third year, and a “settling in” comfort after your seventh year! Really?! SEVEN YEARS! I had no idea how demanding teaching would be.

That night, I had to make a decision. Would I continue on another year for the sake of gaining tenure and a decent income with medical and retirement benefits, or would I dare to believe that my dream job could be something other than what I had always imagined it would be?

Well, you guessed it. I got up early the next morning, drove to school, packed up my classroom and threw away loads of papers. I turned in the keys that afternoon to the Principal. She was shocked!

I went home unemployed that day. I didn’t want to let a school or a Principal tell me what I could or couldn’t teach. I didn’t want to be miserable another four years, or even for another day. I had made a choice.

I would create the life that I really wanted.

Disclaimer: I realize that my experience is unique to me. There are many teachers who love their jobs. Thank goodness, because we need those teachers!


Filed under Life Journal, Music, Music Education

Embracing change!

It’s happening again … late nights doing Google searches, restless sleep, and waking up early because my mind is buzzing with ideas. But it’s a good thing!

After a couple years of hearing my husband, M., talk about his various ideas for us (translation: me) to share our ideas with others via blogging (which I started doing after a year of encouragement) and to hopefully earn some income doing it, I’ve finally caught the bug. I was always skeptical about earning money from writing my thoughts. I mean, really, who’s going to pay me for that?!

Being an entrepreneur, M. has so many fantastic ideas that are totally doable – I just wasn’t getting excited about them. Like … writing an ebook about “Moving to Mexico”, or “Having a baby in Mexico” (I got a little more excited about that one), or “Personal Transformation: My Raw Food Journey” (hmmm, that one sounds interesting, too). But I didn’t have a desire to write a whole book, or even a booklet about any of those topics. They have made great blog posts, though.

But a couple days ago, he hit on something I can really dig into and get pumped up about! It got me thinking all day, late into the night, early the next morning … well, you get the idea. What about an ebook about the business side of starting a private music instruction career? Or starting a small church choir? OK, I know those topics aren’t interesting to everyone, but I also know there are a lot of music teachers that have wonderful techniques to teach but really struggle to keep their studios running efficiently and profitably. And I know that there are tons of small churches that have a church pianist or singer or music leader that want to start a choir, but don’t know how.

Both of those topics are all about educating others in music – which is what I totally have a passion for! And that is why I got so excited! (Can you picture me with a big smile right now?)

The point of all this is that I’m daring to re-dream again. I believe we go through many seasons in life. Right now, I spend the majority of my time at home being a mom and wife. I also have the privilege of being involved in music at our small church, but I’m fairly limited in my outside-the-home availability. After many years of teaching and being heavily involved in music in many different ways, this has been a BIG change! But, I love it! I wouldn’t exchange the time I have at home for anything else! However, maybe I can take advantage of that time to share my experiences with others, and even earn a little money doing it.

So, I’m making plans to start a new blog focused on educating others in music and to eventually use that as a platform to launch an ebook or two. It’s very invigorating to have a new goal to work towards. And I mean, work! I know it will be a year or two before I see any profits, but I’m OK with that. After all, isn’t it the changes in our lives that make things interesting? I do hope to go back to teaching private lessons one day, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this season of my life and let those experiences lead me down a new path.

Change – it’s the only constant in life!


Filed under Life Journal, Music, Music Education