About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 004 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Episode 004 Transcript
The Crescendo Music Education Podcast Episode #4. I think you’re in for a real treat with this episode. I have a chat to Tanya LeJeune, it’s just wonderful listening to her. We actually just got on a bit of a roll, we just kept talking and talking and talking. I decided I’d split this one into two episodes. It’s slightly ironic because I was even talking to her about the length of episodes and we said that a long episode didn’t really matter because you could just stop your podcast player and listen to the end later. Then I decided, actually, I will split it into two.
In this first half of our chat, you’ll hear her talk about her background, the work that she does, some highlights of her journey as a music educator and some people of influence in her life. There are some real pearls of wisdom. I think you’re going to really love the first half of this chat with Tanya. Sit back and enjoy.
Welcoming Tanya LeJeune
Welcome, Tanya LeJeune. It is so exciting to have you here on the podcast.
I’m so excited to be here.
I’m going to start off reading your bio, all very official and all of those things. You have a listen and at the end, tell me if there’s anything else you’d like to add. All right, and hope I don’t mispronounce anything American. If I do, you can just fix me up.
I can help.
Tanya LeJeune lives in Denver, Colorado, USA and is in her 26th year of music education. She has taught K to 8th grade general music in Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado and is a Kodaly instructor of pedagogy and folk song analysis at the Colorado Kodaly Institute at Colorado State University. Tanya serves on the Elementary Music Curriculum Advisory Committee and is the music teacher mentor for Jefferson County Public Schools. Tanya is past president of ROCKE. Now, do you say the letters or just say it like ROCKE.
We say Rocky because it’s like Rocky Mountain High.
Okay, I like it! Of ROCKE, the Colorado Kodaly chapter and has served as member at large for OAKE. You’ll have to tell me what a member at large is.
A member at large has a three year commitment and fulfills many of the OAKE Board members take on committees and head committees. And OAKE takes a lot of people to run because there’s lots of different members, OAKE at large is representation of the entire membership at large.
So like we have Eastern Division, presidents, western division, southern, we have those kind of people who represent specific regions. Member at large is supposed to represent all of the members across the United States.
Wow. That does sound a bit important. Are you voted or do you put your hand up?
Yes and yes. Some of it depends on the year. Some years there’s a voting, well all years there is a voting process. It’s written in the bylaws. And OAKE is very official about doing things according to the bylaws. There’s once in a while where someone will go unopposed. I did run for OAKE member at large a few years before that and I lost to a friend of mine, which was fine. Then I did manage to get in so sometimes there’s a lot of competition and sometimes there might be one person up for an office.
Right, and it’s that sort of thing that it’s really, I’m sure, quite an honor to be there but I imagine it’s also just a lot of work.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s important work. If you want your organization to thrive and if you want to like perpetuate this philosophy, you know that we believe in. You should serve.
Yes. Oh, fabulous. All right. Sorry I haven’t finished your bio. I’ll go back to that. She has presented music education workshops and in-services for several school districts, university, orphan kodaly chapters throughout the United States and for Queensland, Australia. Woo hoo! Tanya also co-hosts the popular General Music Education Podcast, Music Teacher Coffee Talk along with Carrie Nicholas. That is so exciting and that’s how I think a lot of my listeners will know you, through Music Teacher Coffee Talk, I imagine. Now you’ve heard that and we’re going to talk more about that. Is there anything you’d like to add to that bio that I didn’t read out that you think is really interesting or important?
I never know whether I should mention in my bio that I do have a family. My husband is the art teacher at my home school and we have two lovely children who are in high school and middle school which is just so very exciting and full of adventure. High school and middle school. So yeah, that would be the other part, I try to have some of a life beyond the music education life.
It’s hard when you’re passionate and I use that word a lot, I know, but it’s just so hard to have a nice rounded life, isn’t it, when you just are so consumed by helping your profession?
Yeah. Yeah, it is. I often have to take a step back and sometimes not work on things because I need balance and I need to hang out with my people here.
I think that’s a bit of a skill to develop though, to know when to stop. I think I should say I did meet you in 2015 briefly over in Minneapolis but I do feel I know you a little because you’ve presented for us the Kodaly, our Queensland state branch, so a lot of our Australian Kodaly members have seen that fabulous presentation. Thank you very much so we do have this little bit of a personal connection, which is great, but most of the people listening here to this podcast would know you from your podcast, Music Teacher Coffee Talk. One of the things that’s attracted me to podcasting and why I’ve been trying to do this for many years now, is that when you listen to somebody, especially over a period of time, you start to feel like you know them, you start to feel like they’re your friends. So because you’ve been listening, you’ve been in my ears or in my car, on my walks, you know.
But we’re friends, too, you know?
And we’ve been following your music education journey, your music teaching journey through your podcasts. So I’m just wondering if you could tell us some of the big pros and cons of podcasting. Mind you, I am asking for a friend.
Yes, of course. Well, Carrie and I have been doing this podcast for a little over 4 years, which is just amazing to think it’s been that long but it has. When I approached Carrie I had been listening to podcasts, a lot of variety of podcasts, but I didn’t see many music education podcasts. Aileen’s podcast was out there which I listened to religiously, of course, and I love and it’s great. I thought, you know, what I really like is the podcast that I hear where there’s a rapport between two people so I approached Carrie about that because I knew that I didn’t want to go it alone. Carrie is a wonderful music educator and she’s got fantastic ideas. We’re very good friends and most of the time that we spend together or much of the time we spend together, we just talk shop so I just thought, you know what? We just need to put microphones out because we are always, we’re very geeky, we’re always talking about pedagogy and like, ‘Oh, why did this work with this group of kids and not this group?’ We were always unpacking things that went on in our music room. Now, some of these things we cannot air because, you know, we talk about kids names. We talk about like, you know, huge mishaps when someone vomits on the floor, you know, we might not want to share with a podcast audience, but I said, ‘Well, let’s just give it a go’, as you might say, and we will try to do a podcast. We came up with a format and the thing that Carrie is always concerned about is that they are very long, they’re always around an hour. I said, who cares if someone wants to stop listening and then come back later, that’s fine. No big deal.
For me, I’ve got about a half hour drive to and from school, so I’m either on the phone to my good mate, Deb Bryden. Who, good heavens. I’m going to mention her every podcast and we’re geeking out talking about school. But if I’m not doing that, I get a podcast half on the way to school, half on the way home. You know, you don’t have to listen to it in one go.
Right, exactly. When you look at all of the books or advice about starting a podcast, they always say to keep it under 30 minutes and we just didn’t follow that. I just, we can’t wrap it up, there’s two of us, so let’s just think it’s 30 minutes for each of us so there you go. I’m glad that I roped Carrie into this because it is great accountability for me because I know that there would have been weeks or months where I would say, ‘Oh man, I’m tired. All these things are going on. I can’t put out a podcast’, but with Carrie, I know I have someone who is counting on me, and so we put it in our schedule. It’s every other week, which is great because I don’t think we could do every week, that would be overwhelming. We just have to keep each other accountable. There are some tasks that she takes on. She does the editing, I do the posting. I would say it’s all a lot of pros because I think that when we talk about what we’re doing, we work through it and we come up with solutions and different ideas. I’m a very oral learner, I understand things best when I can talk through them and I noticed even during grad school when I would study for things, even music theory test, I would record myself reading my notes and then listen to it as I walked around my neighborhood, because this is how I just take in information, right? I know that there’s a lot of visual learners and we all learn in all of those different ways. Overwhelmingly, I need to talk and I need to hear and I need to process that way so that’s kind of why the podcast happened. Really the only con is it’s just not profitable at all. It’s profitable in that we have so many riches, but money’s not one of them.
Well, you know, rest assured, there are just many, many, many music educators that you’re helping and supporting. It’s quite an isolating sort of profession often, isn’t it? I know in Queensland, mind you, it was an extreme case but there was one young girl, her first posting in Queensland state schools. I’m lucky I’m only got one school and that’s the dream if you can just get at one school so you don’t have to further divide the brain that’s already divided in a million pieces.
Oh, that’s another podcast we could talk.
Oh, good heavens. Yeah, we’ll book that in. Let’s do that another day. So this young teacher who I’m still in touch with, her first job had 11 schools in her circuit. Oh, my 11. Now, they weren’t all every week. It was up in sort of rural Queensland so coastal but then she’d have to drive out so she’d drive out to a one teacher school. She might go out there once a term or twice a term and go out there for half a day and come back. I’ve never heard anything worse than 11 schools. What I’m saying is we’re often alone, often alone in multiple schools, and nobody fully understands the challenges that are placed on a music educator. You know, I mean, that’s fine. There are other teachers and they can be your mates and they can understand to a certain extent. I think until you’re in a role like this, you don’t have that depth of understanding. We need to find people that support us and understand us. On your podcast, you support people all over the world, other music educators.
I love to hear that. I feel like it’s a bonus. I feel like doing the podcast just helps me and I’m just thrilled that anybody else would get anything out of it. It’s wonderful. I hope people come to it though, just with understanding that our situations are unique and that maybe not everything that we advocate is for everybody. You know, I say this just because I’ve been listening to a lot of different podcasts. The market is saturated with podcasts, we always have to remember that things are not necessarily vetted as they would be going into a book or even going into a conference, right? If you do a session like you did in Minneapolis, people have vetted that. I mean, I’ve been on those committees that vet those sessions and not everybody gets in. So, I mean, when Carrie and I drop a podcast, I mean, we hope what we are saying is helpful and valuable, but I hope everyone comes with a critical mind and understands that we’re just dropping our thoughts and nobody else has given us the green light to say this is the best thing for music education for everyone. So, you know, that’s something I think about. Then again, people are grownups and they can choose for themselves. In this world wide web universe that we have going on, we understand that if you go on YouTube, I go on YouTube or sometimes my students go on YouTube and they’ll learn how to play a song on piano, I don’t know if this has happened to you and then they show you and you go, ‘Oh, my goodness, that fingering is the worst’ or they’ll show me something on the ukulele and I think, why would someone say to play a D major here? That makes no sense. hHose things are happening because there are people who are just guessing at things and dropping them and then hundreds of people go, ‘Okay, well, it’s a D major chord here’. So, you know, I think about this a lot and Carrie and I have this conversation a lot about how we get a little worried about how saturated YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, all the things are.
I think at least in our area, you would like to think that people are coming to this with a professional mindset, you know, so I think we’re in a fairly safe area. People will listen and think that sounds like a great song and I love that activity and I don’t think that’s going to work because of I don’t know, I’m in Australia or my children will whatever or I like that idea, I’m going to just tweak it a bit so that it works better for me and my knowledge and my specific methodology. I mean, that’s just part of being a professional, I think.
Oh, I totally agree. Yes.
We’ve got that advantage, I think, with our audience, not all audiences have that advantage. And, you know, don’t believe all you read on Facebook, don’t believe all you hear on a podcast. But as professionals, I just love hearing what other people do and their ideas. I then just put it through my own filter because that’s what professionals do, right?
You are a very seasoned professional.
(laughing) Is that a nice way of saying I’m old?
I’m a very seasoned professional, Debbie. No, that’s my way of saying that you’ve got that critical eye because I mentor teachers in my district, first year teachers, and also because I spend too much time reading Facebook music teacher groups that are not always the most helpful thing. I worry about those brand new teachers who just seem so desperate. They’re just, oh my goodness. I don’t know if you’ve seen on Facebook when people post, Carrie and I joke about it, ‘how do I teach music?’. If you’re crowdsourcing on Facebook at 11:00 the night before your lessons, ooh you’ve got to find a different way. So I worry about these brand new teachers, is what I’m trying to say. Yes, I hope they do have that ability to figure out what works. I think when you’re brand new, you’re just trying all the things and seeing what sticks. When I was teaching brand new and you know, this will age me so here you go. It was when the Internet was only AOL Online, which I don’t know what was going on in Austria. We had something called America Online, and it was just one community and that was ‘being online’ was going to this one community called AOL. That’s what everybody did at first back in the late nineties. So I didn’t have anything coming at me from Instagram or Facebook or TikTok or YouTube because they didn’t exist. I was taking things that I learned in college and just trying them out and tweaking them and trying them out and going to my state conference and seeing Jill Trinka and going, ‘Oh, well, that’s awesome. Let’s do that’. I just think about what would it be like to be a brand new teacher and feel desperate, but also have all this information and having to shift through it? You know what I mean?
Yes, absolutely. I have the same thoughts with some of the posts on the Facebook groups and think, oh, no, and being even more seasoned than you, having 40 years experience, it was well before internet. Luckily I had a few amazing, I would call them, mentors now along the way. I actually joined the Queensland Kodaly Committee as a student representative before I finished college, so I was hooked into that network right from the beginning and then I just would chip away. Started a weekly course with the amazing Judy Johnson. It was Pam Burton who I connected with at college, it wasn’t even a university, it was a teacher’s college and I went, ‘This makes sense’. Oh, imagine learning music this way. Imagine understanding the sound and feeling it, and then being able to express it in my body and read and write what I hear and understand the whole thing and this was just so foreign, but it made so much sense. And then I just started digging, digging, digging. And yes, like I said, trying things out, going to workshops. Yeah. I’m not sure how I would go now if I was brand new and just had the overwhelm. So yeah, but podcasts like yours and hopefully mine might help to clarify and give some other good ideas to those people who are feeling a bit lost.
Yes and I do hope. That is one reason that we really want to make sure Carrie and I just put it all out there and we are very seasoned. She’s a little less than me, but she comes up with some wonderful things that I’m just constantly stealing from her. It’s just wonderful to have someone talk through all of that. And yeah, Carrie and I talk a lot during our podcast about go get your training. Maybe it’s not Kodaly, maybe it’s ORIF, maybe it’s Dalcroze, maybe it’s something else but I think it was life changing when I had my Kodaly training, because like you were saying, I thought, ‘Wow, if I had been taught like this, oh my’. I feel like my undergrad experience was such a scattered mess because they were trying to cover all bases. They said, here’s a little bit of Kodaly, here’s a little bit of or if here’s I don’t even think we had any Dalcroze, but I just got a kind of a smorgasbord of a bunch of stuff. I just felt unfocused and I felt kind of like an overpaid camp counselor, that I was just song and game and song and game and let’s do this and now let’s jump to this song. I didn’t know what I was doing. My first year was so miserable and then when I got my training, it was kind of like someone turned a light on and I was able to go, ‘Oh, okay. Ah, I see’. There’s a path here that I can follow and I can get better if I stay on a path. My friend Fritz, who is Dalcroze wonderful master teacher, he always says there are many roads to Mecca, but you got to stay on a path.
I love it. The way that I think about my core methodology training and the way that I teach, I actually think of that as like my skeleton. That’s like my spine, my backbone and as long as I’ve got that structure there and strong, I can do all sorts of other things. As long as I’m keeping on that, I can. Why don’t we pop some ukulele in for a couple of years? Why don’t we do a bit of this? But I’ve still got my backbone, you know, and I think understanding is what makes it all worth it. We’ve got, without getting too colloquial, I guess, but and maybe it’s happening across the world, but we’re having issues even with, you know, how we describe and I had the same experience, but sort of a smorgasbord training. Well, now there’s pretty well, none. You know, we’re not training primary music educators at the moment in our universities, we’re not going to go down that rabbit hole. I’m just saying we’ve got some fairly big issues trying to preserve music education in Australia and in Queensland. It’s about advocacy but I think we’re going to have a talk about that a little bit later on, how we can save music.
Let’s do it, Debbie. We’ll save it.
Let’s do it. Get on our wild horse. Go. All right, now, what would you say is the highlight. You’re allowed more than one of your journey as a music educator? One but if you can’t stick to one, it’s okay if you have a couple. Absolute highlight.
I don’t have any big shining moments that I can think about. I was very honored and excited to start teaching Kodaly levels at Colorado State University in the summertime, and that just was illuminating for me. Not just teaching teachers but also back to teaching in my own classroom, like to really have to fine tune everything I was doing in order to deliver all of this to teachers who didn’t have any Kodaly experience, that was extremely formative. Even though I always thought, ‘Oh, if I ever get to teach Kodaly levels then that means that I’ve arrived and I know I’m just brilliant’, but I’m never there. That was just monumental for me, growing as a music educator. I don’t have any big awards or accolades that I can talk about, really. I’m just an elementary music teacher in a suburb in Colorado. The kids, they enjoy music, they have fun. I get a big kick when I know I have children students who leave me because they move somewhere and they go to someone else’s program. It just so happens I know a lot of music teachers in Colorado. Just two weekends ago, I saw a colleague who teaches in a mountain town and she said, oh, I have a first grader and she had you for kindergarten. I will introduce a song and she’ll say, ‘Oh, Ms. LeJeune taught us that. I know it goes like this’. I think those little things really mean the most to me, when I hear kids on the playground doing a song and a game that we’ve done in class, or when parents tell me, ‘Oh, we are hearing Starlight Star Bright all the time’, and it’s I think all of those moments mean the most to me. Those are the highlights. I’ve not made teacher of the year. I’ve not gotten any kind of accolades, statues, and plaques and anything beyond. I’m just a Kodaly teacher, means the most when I know kids love music. I know a couple of high school students who have gone on and become songwriters. One of my former students is living in New York, I follow her on SoundCloud and she’s dropping tracks. I think those are the things that mean the most to me. Not to say that, she’s doing it because of me. It’s not that. It’s just that, oh my goodness. I’m so glad that she loves music because really that’s the most important thing. If they come away and they cannot sight sing in a pentatonic scale, that’s fine. If they love music, that’s really what it should be about, right? When I hear that kids are continuing on and when parents tell me that kids are bringing music into other parts of their life, that’s the most meaningful thing.
Yeah. That’s winning. Yeah. Like you said, even if they don’t grow up to be professional musicians, I know every music educator needs to know that they have contributed to the overall development of that child. You’ve contributed to their neural development. You’ve contributed to their social and emotional well-being. You’ve given them joyous times in their life, in their childhood, in their schooling. What we do is so important, and it is those little things. Kids that are lined up waiting for music outside and they’re literally bouncing because they’re so excited to be coming into music. Hey, that’s it.
Oh yeah, or when the kindergarten teacher comes to me and they say they are so excited that you’re back this week because I have my traveling school that I go to and they’re like, ‘Oh, they know you were coming back and they were so excited to see you today’.
That’s winning and that’s highlight. I agree. Okay. You’ve mentioned a couple of people as you’ve been talking. Who would you say has been quite influential in your life, professional or personal?
Oh, yes. I’m dropping these names and I’m not to assume that anyone in any other country knows these names. My Level 1 Kodaly teacher, her name is Jo Kirk, she teaches in several levels program or she has taught in several level levels programs in the United States. She is joy personified.
Oh, that’s yeah, that’s a compliment. Oh, wouldn’t you love someone to say that about you? Joy personified. Oh, I love it.
I don’t think I have quite that much energy, but that would be awesome. So yes, Mrs. Jo Kirk. She was one of those people who turned the light on for me because she was just so joyful and there were so many things I learned from her. She very much stressed the research and developmentally what’s happening in these years. That was a huge takeaway because before that, everything I got in music education was just like, well, this probably works and this has happened since the 1960s. I didn’t get a lot of hard research of like developmentally a seven year old should be able to have this attention span, should be able to do these musical skills, should be at this reading level. I mean, that for me was wonderful because it was solid and it was something that I could go, okay, now I can begin. Now I can really make sure that my lessons are not just, here we are having fun singing and moving, but now we can really work on some skills. I loved the organization of the research that Jo Kirk brought, in addition to the joy and the love of all of that. Jill Trinka. Dr. Jill Trinka, I’m not sure if you’re familiar, she has lots of publications. She is a folk song researcher, but she also teaches in Kodaly level programs and just the joy of folk song and songs that have been passed down for years and years and years here in the United States. Most of them I first heard via Dr. Jill Trinka. I saw her present in New Mexico during my first three years of teaching and that was the first time I saw a music session that made me go, ‘I want to do exactly what this lady is doing’. So I got to find out what’s happening here in New Mexico. When I started my career, the only game in town was Orff, and we had a very strong Orff chapter and they were lovely. I went to those workshops and then the next week I would teach everything that I had learned on the workshop, but I just felt aimless. Then when I saw Dr. Jill Trinka, it was just amazing because I thought, ‘Here’s the whole package, because I love this music’. I could sing it over and over again. Whereas honestly, some of the things that I learned, not all of them, but some of them were just created by teachers. I just felt dorky, honestly, with some of the material. I thought, I can’t sing it or chant it to my children if I don’t love it. So hearing Dr. Jill Trinka getting all of those folk songs and then following that trail was was huge. I would say those were two very influential people. My husband is very influential as well because he’s the art teacher at my school and I started teaching a year after he did. We’ve both I’ve been at the school for 23 years and he’s been at the school for 24 years. Wow. Okay. It’s interesting because he is in the same boat as far as he’s an island, also because he teaches art. We don’t talk specifics about music pedagogy and art pedagogy, although sometimes we do compare a little bit, but just teaching the same children, seeing the same children day to day. I see my husband every 45 minutes when we’re at the same school because our door is open. One group of kids go out, another group of kids come in. We share things like, ‘Oh, so-and-so is having a rough week. I hope next week is better. You might check and see if he had breakfast’, those kinds of things. My husband and I, we talk shop a lot and whatever. I can’t talk with him with pedagogy. I usually I’m talking to Carrie, she is just someone that I can always call up and try things out.
I think you need one of those, don’t you? But having a husband that understands the ‘sausage factory’ is good. You know, kids come in, they go on, the next kids gone. Yeah. And Jill Trinka, just speaking for myself, I didn’t know a lot about, but we in Kodaly Queensland, we had her do a webinar for us. Absolutely delightful and beautiful voice and so interested in what she had to say, something I’d love to chase up further. Yes, some of the people that do do the Kodaly webinars would certainly know of Jill. I really do think that our journeys are marked by people, aren’t they? It’s not even so much events, it’s the people and how they affect you.
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