I one day hope to purse a Doctorate in the field of either Conducting, Education, or Music Education. This post contains a living collection of resources and research that pertains to the leadership that comes about through music education. I firmly believe that music education drives us to be empathetic servant leaders and want to produce more research that says so, in order to continue to advocate for the importance and value of music education.
Teaching Social Emotional Learning through Music
4 years ago today, I was President of the Student Government Association of UMBC, and I was preparing to give a speech to the incoming students that year. The speech sought to inform, inspire, and ease the minds of the students who were about to embark on their collegiate journey. It was the beginning of a school year in which I would learn how to advocate for an entire University of students, build and leverage impactful relationships, and challenge others to think more holistically and critically. It was a year where I would connect dozens (if not hundreds) of people to resources and individuals which would end up improving their campus experience, and the campus as a whole. I would learn how to manage a team of incredibly driven students who believed in the University and our Association enough to empower other students to “be the change they wanted to see in the world”. I would also go on to hone in on my craft as a musician through enlightening conducting experiences that I still hold dear to my heart. The future was bright.
3 years years ago today, I was beginning my journey across the country as a Leadership Consultant for hundreds of college men at over 20 Universities. It was in this role that I learned how to help students dive deeper into issues within their organization in order to find the true source of their challenges. I learned how to inspire men to hold themselves accountable and to create unique and sustainable systems to do so. It was through them that I learned that determination should never fail even when all else seems to have failed. The future was even brighter.
2 years ago today, I found myself in a similar place continuing my consulting work, but this time leading a team of my own who would help students align their operations to our organization’s strategic plan. The responsibility of managing and developing my coworkers was a challenging and rewarding experience I am grateful to have had. The future was getting more and more bright.
1 year ago today, I found myself as a graduate student and graduate assistant, continuing my work of developing young student leaders. This time I had the added challenge of balancing my own academic development with the development of my students, and saw a deeper meaning behind True Grit and determination. It was a year that I found myself struggling between becoming a future music educator or higher education professional, along with various other professions that put me in a position to help inspire students to be the best versions of themselves. I seized incredible opportunities that broadened my network in both fields, both nationally AND internationally, and felt that I was getting closer to seeing the start of my path to making the world a better place. The future was the brightest it’s ever been!
Today. I find myself frustrated. I find myself sad at times. I find myself worried about the state of a nation that does not tend to place situations in my favor. I find myself with a new degree, but with no official venue to use the refined knowledge that came with it. I find myself angry with prospective jobs not responding with decision letters, or simply casting away my resume of hard work and dedication that I’ve grinded to build. The future does not seem as bright as it once was, but throughout all that I’ve learned and preached throughout the years, I know that I must keep digging through this tunnel to get to the bright future that I assumed was much closer. I know that I am not alone in this time of uncertainty and that due time will bring us all to where we are meant to be. But right now, I need to use all the tools I can to dig out of this tunnel.
I’m reaching out, spreading a wide net, and doing what I’ve told many: “‘Nothing in life is more important than relationships.’ Use them and never be afraid to ask for help.”
And to everyone else out there in a similar position, we’ve got to hang in there. This time in our lives does not and will not define us.
If you are angry, tired, overwhelmed, fearful, disappointed, in mourning, and/or Black, this message is perhaps not for you, because you might understand.
You might understand why I shouldn’t be spending energy to write this when I am already worn and tired.
You might understand the insidious intricacies of racism and that it is not one single act, but a system that is engrained in the history and backbone of the United States.
You might understand that everything happening in this country right now is the product of a country being built off the backs of slaves, slaves whose descendants were not "free" until 1964, not even 60 years ago.
You might understand that it will take more than just 60 years to undo over 350 years of injustice, death, inequality, hatred, racists structures and mindsets.
You might understand that racism robs the Black community as an entirety of power— power that could be used to help completely break down systemic racism and build up an equitable society built on love, empathy, justice, and equality.
You might understand why White silence can be dangerous, and how it can increase the power of people who are actively/passively racist, by keeping them from the truth of the repercussions of their racism, whether it be overt or covert.
You might understand why it will takes more than just a status and a hashtag to help push towards ending police brutality and creating a better country.
You might understand why there is a reason that White Supremacists side with Donald Trump, and how his actions and words are fuel to their fire of hatred.
You might understand why it is worth the effort to exercise some empathy (even if just for a moment, it costs nothing!) and look at the causation of rioting rather than rioting itself; you might understand how important changes in history have begun in similar fashions. Rioting not your cup of tea? Move on and figure how what you can do personally instead.
If you understand all of this, this message is not for you. No. This message is for you who does not understand, and especially if you are White. It is beyond the time for you to change. It’s time for you to recognize that though you may not feel powerful, there is power that comes with your identity, thus your actions, resources, and words. Use it to do something about this. Educate yourself. Learn how racism is connected to every aspect of our society: money, housing, healthcare, education, law enforcement, etc. Then educate your community. Your children. Your parents. A cousin. A friend. A coworker. Use knowledge and your power to help at least ONE person understand what’s happening right now, for that is at least one more person brought onto the right side of history, and one more person that can help vote more thoughtfully and advocate for why Black Lives Matter. Individual interactions are much more powerful and meaningful than hashtags or statuses. Even if you do not agree with someone else’s method of progressing forward, figure out how you yourself can make a difference and be a part of creating a better country. This isn’t about the Right vs. Left, or even right vs. wrong. This is about Love vs. Hate, something everyone can feel.
Your silence is loud, and it matters. Your lack of action is an action, and it matters. Your absence of empathy and understanding is fuel to the fire, and it matters.
Yesterday, I was walking to my car and heard a trumpet playing somewhere above me in the parking garage. I started running to my car (in case they'd stop playing by the time I got to my car) and immediately grabbed my trumpet. The other player was playing some warm ups, so when he would stop, I'd play the second line of the warm up. This happened a couple of times. Once the player probably realized he wasn't going crazy, he started playing a few notes the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto, a piece I just happened to be currently working on for my audition for the Honors Performance Series Young Adults program at Carnegie Hall! After the few notes he played, I continued where he left off, and so on and so forth.
I ended up searching the parking lot for this guy and we ended up talking for a long time about music, trumpet, and life in general. I have an intense fear of playing in public, but when I pulled out my trumpet and knew that I wanted to find this player by playing this impromptu trumpet game, I completely forgot about the outside world and what everyone would think about me for playing a random ass trumpet in a parking garage.
So what did I get out of this?