"In a teaching career that has included jazz piano, English, modern dance, playwriting, and directing, I am always drawn to the creative, the collaborative, and the new; and to process as much as product."
I have enjoyed working with kindergarteners to college students – all delightfully interesting, challenging, unique, worthy of respect and caring. And I enjoy teaching in the performing arts because they provide a perfect medium for personal growth: reflection, meaningful collaboration, and self-expression–for students and for me. And so much fun. There is a reason they call them “plays” and we “play” music. I try to never lose sight of that joy through all the practice, discipline, and acquisition of skills.
In college I accompanied modern dance classes for children, with a teacher who had a deep understanding of child development. Then, as dancer/musician for two children’s dance companies, I performed and gave workshops at hundreds of schools in the New York City area. The first actual class I taught was at an after school program at the progressive Bank Street School in storytelling.
My wife, then a modern dancer, developed a passion for teaching, got her master’s, and was offered a job at a small K-12 school in New Hampshire. I was also hired part-time to teach music and piano lessons. Years passed, the school grew, and I was asked to create a performing arts department. The thought of advocating (officially) for the arts induced me to go full-time. As department head I implemented a music requirement that offered choice: music lessons, salsa dance, jazz band, chorus, recording, and more. I developed a drama program based on consensus building, teamwork and choice. I brought in teachers for private lessons, working to schedule lessons at times that would work for all concerned. I worked with K-2 student composers in the Creating Original Opera project-based curriculum. I developed relationships with donors who helped me bring in outstanding chamber musicians and jazz artists and financed trips to the Boston Symphony and to regional theater. I helped hire, train, and support new teachers. And I was the only staff member who taught classes from 3rd to 12th grades.
I worked through graduate school to fill in gaps and answer some of the questions I had about music, theater, and teaching itself. For several years I also taught jazz piano at Plymouth State University. Teaching college students challenged me to defend and define what I value most in this highly collaborative, intuitive art form, and working with the faculty served as a springboard to performing since with some great musicians, my moonlighting job.
Two years ago my K-12 school downsized dramatically, closing the high school for financial reasons, and my role transitioned, happily it turns out, to being the sole performing arts specialist in a K-8 setting. To support this new emphasis on younger students, I am working toward getting certified in Orff-Schulwerk pedagogy, which I discovered to my joy is deeply compatible with my own philosophy and methods.