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Music Education Helped Me Find my Place in the World

Posted by Susan Mills on Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Music education in the small town where I grew up consisted of a combination of church experiences, piano lessons and the public school music classes taught by a dedicated and multi-skilled staff of elementary, middle and high school music educators.  From the time I can remember, the weekly music classes in school provided me with a reason to learn.  I learned about American history, foreign countries, traditional cultures and many ways that people around our world expressed themselves musically.  My elementary music teacher sang with and for us with her sweet voice, teaching us the simple songs of our southern mountain culture and promoting the love of music through her own example.

We had a piano in my home, and my parents encouraged music education through piano lessons.  I was fortunate that when I enjoyed messing around with the keys (a bit differently than I was supposed to be practicing) my school music teacher recognized my interest and love for the activity of making music.  She invited me to play one of my original compositions for the class and I learned that I had developed a talent and skill that gave me a place among my friends as a musician.

In high school, I played instruments in the band and twirled a baton in our weekly pep parades, all under the supervision of a band director that noticed my intense love for music and my willingness to play the piano.  He invited me to join the stage band, where my passion for making music in small ensembles, combos and pop groups helped me fit perfectly into a world that was distracting and awkward for adolescent musicians.

Throughout my life, it has been the ability to make and share music that has facilitated my place in communities.  I have lived in several communities, because my work has taken me to several relocations.  Wherever I have moved, I have been able to find my place in churches with musicians, in bands with musicians and in academic institutions with musicians.  Because of music, I became a Fulbright Scholar and served my country as cultural ambassador to another nation.  Because of the music education I received, staring with the first elementary classroom music lesson, I found a place in my community and always find that place in those communities where my work leads me from time to time.  It all started because music classes inspired me to be curious about people, history and culture.  I am forever grateful to all those music educators who found the place in me that could thrive through music education, become the vehicle for connecting with people everywhere.