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wisconsin music educators association president

Education Begins at Home Richard Tengowski, WMEA President

When I was in sixth grade, I played clari- net in the band. I was an average in- strumentalist and I still remember tell- ing my parents that I wanted to quit. My mom told me that it wasn’t an option.

You see, she understood the value of music. I pleaded with my mom, but my mom knew what was best. She said if I worked hard, I would get better and that I would enjoy playing clarinet in the band. Well to make a long story short and now that I am a big shot music teacher and an active performer on clarinet, I have to give credit to my mom for knowing what was best for me and insisting that I continue making music.

As I meet new people, I often times hear the comment, “Oh, you’re a music teacher? I used to play piano, but I quit when I was in school. I should have stayed with it.” As music teachers, we’ve all encountered this conversation. Many of them even go so far as to say, “I wish my parents would have made me continue playing piano.” It is a fact that parents play a critical role in a child’s education, especially in music. My mom didn’t know the latest in cognitive research studies nor did she have a degree in music, but deep down inside, she insisted that I keep play- ing my clarinet because she knew what was best for me.

As I now enter my 25th year of teaching of Fond du Lac

Music Department offering the following degrees: BA --Music

with emphasis in Performance Jazz Studies

Liturgical Music BS -- Music Administration

Contact Dr. David Thompson (920) 923-8108 45 S. National Ave., Fond du Lac, WI 54935

music, I am fortunate to teach in a com- munity that values a balanced education – one that includes music. Over the years, we have built a strong network of parents that support music. In fact, I’ll even say that I have the best parents a music teacher could ask for. However, music teachers and parents value music education for different reasons. In all my years, I have learned that there are two rules regarding parents:

1. Parents want what is best for their child. It’s not about the music program and it’s not about the music teacher – it’s about their child. The harsh reality is that most parents do not know all the reasons to value music education. It’s up to us as music educators to teach the parents all the reasons to value an education that includes music. The truth is that music educators have to continually advocate the need for a quality music education taught by exemplary music educators, even with the parents whose children are in your classroom.

2. Parents will support music if their child can be part of something worthy or successful. There are many parents


out there who pay for private instruc- tion, pay for instruments and spend valuable time driving children back and forth from music event to music event. These dedicated parents are both admirable and valuable, but I would encourage you to support their efforts for the right purpose. While extrinsic motivators such as trophies or personal notoriety can draw parents into the fold, make every effort to share with parents the intrinsic qualities, the personal growth and the meaningful experiences that come with learning music. This can be a challenge but a worthy cause to share all that is good in music. This is the time to look back to rule one and update the statement to read… “teach the parents what is best for their child.”

Parents are a music teacher’s best ally if they are informed. They can be some of the best music advocates because they want what’s best for their children. Embrace the parents of your music students and thank them for their support, engage them in the learning process and continue to commu- nicate all the wonderful things that come with a quality music education.

It’s true, music education begins at home. I’m thankful to have parents who insisted on my participation in music and for their continued support of my music endeavors over the years. For my colleagues, just imagine what would have happened if your parents had let you quit band, choir or orchestra when you were in school. Remember that parents, whether they are our parents or the parents of our students, can be the most influential and important figures in our lives and in the lives of our students.

Richard Tengowski teaches grades 6-12 instrumental music at Kohler Public Schools. Email:

January 2012

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