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Did I Steward Authority Well? - Difference Tones - May 2019

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(written transcript below)

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Happy May everybody! And yup, you’re absolutely right. Brandon Snyder did say that he would run a monthly newsletter, and indeed, one month later, it’s here, the second. monthly. newsletter.

[Excerpt from *home* plays]

The music you’re hearing right now, you can experience it live! This audio is from my sound installation with Chantine Akiyama, it’s currently up at the BAAA Gallery in Cambridge, MA. The work is titled *home* and it aims to capture a particular sentiment of what home represents for a listener – a sort of nostalgia for childhood that is accessed through the physical and emotional markers. The piece that we made is a bedroom. We BUILT a room and you can WALK INSIDE IT! You can lay on the bed, you can look at some photos, you can listen to the music you are hearing now. It has multiple cool components, so do check it out if you are in Cambridge, MA.

This isn’t the only piece of music in my life at the moment. In a few weeks, I’ll get to have a special moment with my high school students. I wrote a piece for their Jazz orchestra, and I’ll be conducting them for the premiere performance. If you don’t know this about me already, I teach at the Orange county School for the Arts and it’s been a big part of my day to day life this year. I teach classes in piano, composition, theory, music business, recording technology, and I run a rhythm section masterclass. Cool fact from last month, our program competed at the Reno Jazz Festival, this national competition that has thousands of students gather from around the country. Our band won 1st place in the entire thing! 1st place in the top division. This is an audio clip from the moment outside of the award ceremony where all the students just found out they won and they get a look at this 1st place trophy.

[cheering audio plays]

I love teaching, and this was the first time I got to do it in a classroom setting. When I started this job at Orange County School of the Arts, I was really expecting it to be a season of growing as a communicator. How can I explain this concept better? What’s the best lesson plan format for this subject? Things like that. And while I did indeed grow in those areas, there was a much bigger theme running through my year at the school. That was this theme of: How do I steward my authority well?

So, in college, everything I had to read was about power dynamics and authority dynamics. During that time, I didn’t have much authority as a student. But now, I’m a teacher in a high school. I realized very quickly that the power I have over my students is greater than anything I’ve ever wielded before in a job. Not only am I poised as a role model figure in front of a bunch of impressionable students, I also control things like their grades, their attendance record, whether their misbehavior will merit a detention or not, my word is given the benefit of the doubt over a student’s word... Though my role as a teacher is relatively weak in comparison the greater society, in this local situation of the classroom, I actually am responsible for a lot in these students lives.

This really sobered me up. It added a level of seriousness, particularly around how I deal with my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. For example, if I make a musical mistake in class, or somehow a student performs a certain concept better than I do, it can be a little embarrassing for me, and my insecurities will tell me to downplay that moment, to move on, and snap at the student if they make any snarky comments about my playing. But obviously I would never want to do that. In those moments, I know that I want to give that student praise for grasping a concept really, really well, and I also want to demonstrate humility well, that being a teacher doesn’t mean I’m perfect, that exhibiting faults is part of being a role model as well.

I realized through teaching that, in some ways, I had gotten comfortable having a big ego, comfortable in a desire to try to be better than others. I'm really thankful that teaching, this interpersonal relationship with young students, has pulled me to a higher level of conviction and accountability to be a good human being. I won’t be teaching at this high school next year, I’ll be in graduate school. However, I know that these dynamics around authority and power and control, they’re always beneath the surface. I hope that the patience and perspective my students have given me will be a vine that will continue to grow and bear fruit well along into my graduate school.

[excerpt from Chorus from the Rock plays]

As I mentioned at the beginning, if you live in Cambridge in this merry month of May, do check out the BAAA Gallery. There is going to be a reception there on May 19th, and anyone is welcome to register for it.

On May 25th at 1pm, the Orange county School of the Arts will perform my new piece for Jazz orchestra. It's called Wobble Suite. Tickets are on sale now at the OCSA box office.

And finally, if you enjoy the music you are hearing right now, it is part of a music video I made in collaboration with Christian and Christina Gonzales Ho and Robyn Adams. It’s part of Christian and Christina’s new online publication between lands, which features pieces of all forms of media, centering around questions of faith and Christian spirituality. You can check the full video in a link that I’ll include here (above).

Ok! That is all! Next Time I see you, it’ll be June! And next time it’s June, I’ll be in Germany!

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