Reflections from a Music Educator Going into the Professional Realm

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It is hard for many entering their undergraduate to imagine themselves as any kind of independent professional within the next four years or so. Admittedly, I did not always think that when I was screwing around in Woodwind Techniques class (as brass players do) my freshman year that this information is extremely vital for myself as an educator within a three-year timespan. College is a great environment: you have the ability to surround yourself with great people and too many great resources than you may realize at the time. As a current student teacher in the greater Indianapolis area, I can most definitely confirm that even the tiniest bits of information might become relevant very soon.

I consider myself very fortunate to be given great advice on how to transition into the gritty “real world” in a more seamless manner. Right now, I think the best advice I am benefitting from is the fact that yes, it will be rough for awhile. No, four years at any university will not magically give you the tools to succeed right out of school. There will be days when you think: “Am I really fit/prepared/ready for this?” In times like these, I always find ways to answer: yes, it just takes time! I have been accepting the fact that any profession (especially education) is an ongoing learning process. Because of this, SOAK EVERYTHING IN. Keep a journal of reflections (what went wrong, what went right, etc.), note breakthroughs, and always ask questions. Even reflecting the way I am right now helps collect my thoughts. Keep this in check with your goals and dreams (note how they are different!). I always have up to a five-year plan on all topics professionally related so I am always over-preparing rather than under-preparing. College is also great for making connections. Sounds cliche, but you will wish you had this support later on, and that is what it is there for! Especially in the music industry, connections, access to resources, and small ins and outs of your field are more crucial than you may think when in college.

So I encourage you to take this extra step now. These extra steps will not only save you some blood, sweat, and tears after graduation, but you may find better opportunities having this information: maybe getting that job offer from the school I applied for, or finding a unique opportunity in an emerging portfolio career as a performance major. But in the end, you will not always love the process of becoming a professional in your field. It is hard work, and any of these doubts are simply little tests to confirm afterwards: yes, you can do this! College is a long, fun, adventure. Realize you only have four years of this undergraduate experience to set yourself in the right direction. Find your weaknesses and learn; find your strengths and benefit from it.

-Garrett Dexter

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