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Maintaining a healthy vocal music program in the face of challenges such as shrinking budgets and scheduling pressure brought on by standardized testing is no small achievement. With long-term career “survival” in mind, this latest CD survey seeks to provide a sounding board for our readers to vent frustrations and share what gets them through the day.

While almost 75 percent of our respondents indicate they supplement their salary with alternative sources of income and 68 percent admit they have had at least fleeting thoughts of leaving education altogether, in the end, the results are heartening: over three quarters of our readers have been in the game for more than 10 years and most remain upbeat, thanks in part to tactics which many have revealed in this survey.

How many years have you been teaching choral music?
Survey #1

Do you have any additional sources of income?
Survey #2

Have any elements of working in education ever made you feel like quitting?
Survey #3

It’s hard to believe that I’ll be financially taken care of in my old age with the current trend of contractual problems that we are experiencing.

Robert Rappa
Martin Middle School
East Providence, R.I.

I actually quit for one year. A non-certified church musician without a degree took over, left mid-year, and I was called back the next July much more appreciated!

Joyce Larson
St. Louis the King School
Glendale, Ariz.

The useless paperwork the state and local boards of education require us to do, on top of the NCLB hogwash from the feds, is demoralizing.

Robert M Chilton
Mt. Airy Middle School
Mt. Airy, N.C.

Being understaffed is awful. I am the sole music teacher in a high school of over 800. I am by no means a choral specialist, so I feel like the vocal kids are getting cheated. My instrumentalists and general music kids are getting cheated because I am too busy to do the job that I should.

Ronald Lamoureux
Johnston Senior High School
Johnston, R.I.

I hate having to recruit singers. As a past math/core teacher, it is more stressful to have to worry about enrollment numbers than correct 36 book reports. When I changed from teaching core, everyone said how lucky I was since music is so easy and you don’t have assignments to grade. They obviously have never had a performance riding on their backs.

Jennifer Brown
Charlotte Wood Middle School
Danville, Calif.

What is the most dire challenge faced by your vocal music program?
Survey #4

The demand for passing standardized tests is pulling kids out of our programs and cutting into rehearsals and performances.

Peter S. Crosta
Orange Township Public Schools
Orange, N.J.

Increased graduation requirements in core, personal finance, and P.E. are causing our music department to lose enrollees. There are simply not enough hours in the day to take everything.

Sue Bauche
Farmington High School
Farmington, Mo.

Narrow-minded school and district administrators are continually cutting and not supporting arts programs as they “increase academic rigor.”

Joyce Bertilson
North Canyon High School
Phoenix, Ariz.

Do you collaborate with other educators?
Survey #5

I have initiated combined performances with the art department and the English department to educate a larger audience and assist with recruitment. I also invite singing teachers to join us for church performances

Vicky Boechler
St. Mary’s Central High School
Bismarck, N.D.

I have such a heavy teaching schedule it is difficult to find time to collaborate.

Susan Banks
PS 124
New York, N.Y.

Network with others! It’s the best way to keep your perspective. Surround yourself with positive energy. If you love choral music, you must shower your singers with that love.

Mark Alberstein
Woodlake Public Schools
Woodlake, Calif.

Since you began teaching vocal music, have you continued your own education?
Survey #6

If you could improve one aspect of your job, what would it be?
Survey #6

Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. The squeaky wheel really does get the grease. Also, pursue and offer excellence. You are more likely to be supported if you are making a difference in the lives of your students. You have to be involved in community outreach and increase your programs visibility.

Adam James Beeken
Lexington Catholic High School
Lexington, Ky.

Additional Comments:
Always remember why you decided to become a choral music teacher. I think about how much I love music and all the benefits that come from singing – being a part of a positive experience, raising self-esteem, and making people feel good. It is all about the students and reaching for the stars.

Brenda Angotti
Millinocket Middle School
Millinocket, Maine

Search your local and state arts advocacy groups or arts council for grants on attending workshops or conventions if you cannot afford to go on your own. ACDA conventions and summer workshops are great refreshers, rechargers, and reminders for inspiring the choral educator. They are worth the investment, especially if they offer graduate credits that assist in obtaining higher salaries.

Darrell Crowther
Coronado High School
Henderson, Nev.

We are not teaching “music.” We are teaching people. Most of the joy I find in this profession comes not from the actual music we make, but the personalities and development of the young people I get to teach. When I see them “get it,” and music becomes a part of their self-expression, I know those experiences will become part of their lives forever.

Clifford Badgley
Reyburn Intermediate School
Clovis, Calif.

Find a support system; if it isn’t in your direct school, make sure you have support at least through your MENC or ACDA chapters. These voices are fabulous.

Penny Carmack
Newark High School
Newark, Del.

You are not alone! Reach out to those around you; they will listen and either offer advice or at least sympathize. Don’t be afraid to connect with your students – they provide some of the most amazing opportunities that could be easily overlooked. Talk to your fellow teachers and administrators – they won’t know you if you don’t offer what is happening with you and your department. Remind yourself often that what you are doing with your life is valuable and necessary! Weigh decisions with the thought of lasting impression in mind – not one moment of applause, but the true education behind what you are performing.

Mindy D. Domer
Carrollton High School
Carrollton, Ohio

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