Read the Episode with Peter Boonshaft, Part 2


Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 78. And here we are for part two of my talk with Dr. Peter Boonshaft. I just loved hearing about his journey, and how he appreciated all of the elements that it takes to be an excellent music educator, how much he valued not only the technical side of his craft, but the aural musicianship that he gained through his Kodály training, and all of those good pedagogical techniques. Anyway, look, it’s just great. Listen yourself, here’s part two.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 078 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

The Power of Collaborative Work & What Needs to Be Fixed

All right, here’s another thought, I find that so inspiring, what you’re talking about is so inspiring. And I think we all need to do it as best we can, within our context. So for me, in my full time job with my music team, it’s working with and understanding and sharing with my instrumental team and the choral people and if you’re lucky enough to have a bit of a team, learn from each other.

Peter Boonshaft
Absolutely and help each other.

Absolutely. But I’m wondering what implications this has for teacher training and for professional development. Now, I know everyone has different systems. And we’ve been in a little crisis here without pre service training, and I respect and actually have friends that are in tertiary, so no offense to those people, but the music has been cut, to say the very least, and not necessarily preparing educators well for when they come out.

So how do you think we need to focus on our craft and our pedagogy? And I think that, you know, woodwind players need to know how to teach their instruments well, they need that pedagogy classroom, people need that. And we need to have this bigger lens and these different lenses. I love this use of the word lens. So what implications do you think that has for pre service training? And then for how we run our professional learning? Are there some different ways we should be doing this now?

Peter Boonshaft
Well, you know, you bring out a very, very important topic. And unfortunately, a kind of a daunting one, when it comes to pre service training. I don’t think anyone, any place in the world does it perfectly, I think it is always a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul, we’re going to give you more of X but we have to take away Y. Because unfortunately, we have this bucket of credits and classes that you’re able to take in your time.

And so if we add one more theory class, we have to take away an ensemble. And if we’re going to add another instrument class, a techniques class, we’re gonna have to take away a theory class. I think what the tertiary school programs have to do is they have to decide which of those is going to be the one that’s taken from and which is going to get more. And I wish we could have more training, more time for training so that we could all be trained better, on more things, I don’t think that’s possible.

I’m not sure how it is now in Australia, but I do know in the United States, we’ve been told in higher education, that we have to add evermore classes and seminars on topics that are governed by the state and bureaucratically, so to speak, we were told we need to add this class, this class and this class. Well they have to replace something else, because by law we have to teach them. So we’re going to have to take away some of this.

So for example, I know many schools that used to have three semesters of conducting for their music education degree. And that was their norm. Well, I saw that same school go to two. And now my last visit there, I believe they went down to one, I think it’s indicative of why did they go away? Is it because conducting is any less important? No, it’s that all those other things stole that time.

I sound very defeatist in this but I think the one thing that has to be done, and I think can be done is that folks in higher education, have to get into the schools more, work with the teachers more who are doing this on a daily basis. The folks as you called it in the trenches, I think they need to listen more. Now granted 99% of them, were there once but I think it’s easy to forget, and I always say teaching now is so much different than it was five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago, and I think that we need higher education to get back to those roots more and understand okay, it’s all well and good that they understand X, but they need to have Y.

Now these teachers need to have Y. And that’s what we see coming out of your program. Now, I think part of it is teachers have to have the courage to tell the folks in higher ed, your kids are coming out and they don’t do well, in the following topics. They do really well here, but they need work here. So I think in part, it’s that we need to be a little more honest with each other, I think we need to get off our soap boxes a little bit.

And I’m just as guilty as the next person. I mean, if I had my way, we’d have eight semesters of conducting for every music ed student, because I’m biased. I’m realist enough to know that that’s not logical. I do think the more important part of this is, there is no solution to that, I don’t think. So the solution to me lies in the second part of your question. And that’s professional development. Yes. But I’m going to add a middle ground. And that is I wish I knew, and maybe it’s admitted, what I didn’t know when I came out of college. When I graduated I felt prepared, but I wasn’t honest enough with myself to say, I need this, I need this, I need this.

Yes but also you don’t know what you don’t know.

Peter Boonshaft
But sometimes we do. So I will say one of the things that I’m more delighted by than all the decisions I made. When I graduated from my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to be a conductor, I felt pretty good with my hands. I felt good with my history and theory. But one of the things that I felt very weakened, was my ear training, I got straight A’s, but I wasn’t confident.

And I knew in the back of my mind, I wasn’t going to be a better conductor and teacher unless I wrestled this demon. I had to learn it. And I remember going to a then girlfriend of mine, who was studying to be a classroom teacher, and had studied Kodály, and she said Kodály is your answer. I said Well, I don’t want to do classroom music. And before I didn’t really have the revelation of the inner workings of all of us.

I said why, she said because my ears are better than yours, my sight singing is better than yours, on my worst day, because of the way I was trained. So I immediately enrolled, and it was life changing. I have never to this day ever been anything but confident in that skill. And I’ve never let it hold me back. I know if I hadn’t wrestled that demon early on, it probably would haunt me to this day. And I would have had to hide, I think to some measure.

And so I think it’s really us being honest with ourselves. But now as you said, we don’t know what we don’t know until we get there. But I think the second we land, we need to start saying, okay, here are the things I don’t know. And the one thing I wish I had done more and I wish every new teacher did and that is asked for help. I had this in the back of my mind that when I first started teaching that if I asked for help, it would be seen that I was weak that I was unable, I was undeserving of the job.

And I know now what an idiotic thought process that was that because I know I had opportunities to work with great teachers if I had taken them. And I didn’t. Because I didn’t want to go to that supervisor and say, I need help with this. Because I didn’t want them to say Oh, you don’t know how to do that, oh, we should fire you. Now, I know now that person would have taken me under their wing, grabbed me by the arm and said, Let’s go do this, and let’s help you with this.

The Importance of Asking for Help

Peter Boonshaft
But I didn’t then so I beg every new teacher at every crossroads I can and including this wonderful podcast, please ask for help. No one will ever think ill of you for asking. But they will always think well of you for asking and saying I don’t know enough repertoire, I need to know more folk songs, help me with this. I need to know better games that go with these folk songs. I need to know a better way of teaching whatever it is.

And I think the more we ask, the more we learn from these more seasoned, maybe more experienced teachers, the better we’re ultimately going to be. And I think that’s really important.

How to Adjust Professional Development

Peter Boonshaft
But then the last aspect is what you said about professional development, because then we can go in a large way on ourselves, the tertiary schools will help with that. But I think ultimately what has to happen is professional development has to be there to either fill in the gaps for what was not taught to us, fill in the gaps for what has changed dramatically from what was taught to us, and then things that we just feel we are weak.

And I think part of it is and I will say it this way. Part of it is I think we as teachers need to tell the powers that be whether that be at conferences, whether that be for school, professional developments, or county or region or whatever it would happen to be. We need to be honest and say, “Here are the topics we need more help with.” Then, it’s incumbent upon those institutions, those programs, those conferences to listen, and I think sometimes that’s part of the problem is that sometimes it’s people are not listened to enough.

But when for example here, here’s a great example when COVID kind of changed the way we had to do everything, immediately there was professional development for using zoom and in Google Classroom and all the other electronic media, because we had to and everybody understood, well, we have an entire culture of teachers that are ignorant to this, because they never needed it before. And only a handful ever used it, we need to train them. So they did a great job.

And you could, I bet if every one of us wanted to do 15 webinars a day on using those electronic classrooms, we could have found because people did it. The problem is that those kinds of we need this feelings. I don’t think there’s enough professional development for those other things that come about. And I think we need to say we need more material that’s relevant today for teaching classroom music, we need more music of this, more repertoire for this.

So we need to have in supply, we need better training, we want to get better as conductors, we need to do this. We want to get better at rehearsal techniques, whatever it happens to be, we need to express those desires, and have people listen to us. Because I think sometimes it’s because it’s never been expressed. They don’t put in those sessions, if you will.

I could not agree more. I think so many of us don’t speak up about what we need. And part of that is that we feel oh well, what’s the point we’re not listened to? But if you’re not speaking up, you haven’t got a chance? And if everybody speaks up, you can be heard?

Peter Boonshaft
Absolutely, absolutely. And that might actually have to translate to volunteering for something. And saying, I’d like to volunteer for this committee that will help with professional development for X or Y, or getting in contact with people who do sit on those committees and say, I want to make my voice. Here’s a list of friends who there are five of us here would say please, could we have a session on the following topic? By and large those people will listen.

Well absolutely, Crescendo that I run and I do webinars and workshops from time to time. I’m also on the Kodály Queensland committee, we would love with ever putting out that we just did a professional development, Deb and I went to Cairns and we worked with some music teachers up there. And part of the feedback is always what topics would you like to see Kodály Queensland help support you with? What presenters would you like, we always say that.

Nearly always, there’s a lot of blank, or there’s a lot of just some general assessment or whatever, that’s good. Give us as much info, give us more. The people who want to provide this are listening. Maybe our employers aren’t, maybe?

Peter Boonshaft
Well they can be made to at least hear, they might not be able to make the list but they can hear. And you know I was at a conference just very recently, I think it was two weeks ago, at a professional development. They provided lunch for us in the middle of the day. And so we all went into this room and they had provided lunch, it was lovely.

And we’re all sitting at these tables, people started to just chat and eat their lunch. The committee that ran this, I think there were five, maybe seven folks on this committee. They didn’t eat lunch with us. They walked around the cafeteria with notebooks, and they’d sit down or they’d stand at the end of the table and say, Okay, tell us what we should do next time. And you’d hear a lot of Oh, no, this is lovely, this is great.

No, that’s not what I asked. What I want to know is tell me a topic that would make you a better teacher. And I listened to this one gentleman who was very forthright. He said, No, I want to know what’s going to make you a better teacher. Tell me what I need to provide. And that is a quote, Tell me what will make you a better teacher. This young teacher said, Well, I don’t really know.

So this gentleman went farther. And he said, What’s your weakest thing? And the fellow said, Well, it’s probably running a rehearsal. He said, great. And I see him write it down. And he went from table to table as all the other board members did, or committee members did. They went around the tables asking and they weren’t willing to take, oh, this is fine. They grilled.

I mean, it was it was pretty intense. Until they got people to say what is it you need more of? What what is your weakest thing? Because, you know, every one of us in an interview has been victim of the question, What is your biggest strength? And what is your biggest weakness? Well, I think here’s a case where we really do need to express it and say, my biggest weakness is this, this and this. And I would love to get better at that.

And I think as long as the powers that be hear the latter part of that sentence, And I want to get better at it. I think there will be some stick in the muds that won’t do it. But I think a lot will say, wow, it’s powerful. I need to do this. It doesn’t cost any more to have a session on something people really want than it does to have a session that people are tired of or have heard enough of or don’t really care about.

The Power of Your Professional Network

That is amazing. There’s just all these ideas are popping around. Thank you. That’s amazing. Do you know I think the other thing that’s important for when you’re starting teaching and you’re trying to improve, I think, you know that old quote that you are as good as the five people that you mix with the most. I don’t know my quotes, but that one I think it’s about setting up the networks.

Peter Boonshaft
Oh, so true.

You know, it’s the people that you can call on, it’s the person that you can email and go, I just had the worst lesson of my life with grade six. This happened, this happened, even if all you want is for them to listen, then you might say, Just give me one idea, something different I can try next time. I have got to hook these kids.

So not necessarily you want a big PD on it, which is so important. We need this. What you’ve said with professional learning is so on the mark. But I think there’s that little extra layer, build your personal connections too.

Peter Boonshaft
I think that those relationships with friends and our colleagues, it’s so important, because it’s a sounding board. When we come back to one of the first topics we talked about, it lessens frustration, because when I talk to you about my frustration, and you say, oh, yeah, that happens to me once a month, all of a sudden, my pressure valve releases a little bit, and I say, Oh, wait, that’s happened to you. Oh, okay, then it’s not so catastrophic. How did you get past it? Well, this is what I did. Okay, let me try that.

And so I think it gives us this ability to kind of be more realistic in our expectations, as you said, even if it’s just as a sounding board, even just to hear them out, I think is so important. And then also getting mentors, finding people who are really good at what we want to be and say, will you serve as a mentor, that means I’m going to call you once in a while, I’m going to write you a little email and say I need a folk song for these three syllables, I’m tired of this one.

It could be anything from the mundane to the powerful to the philosophical, but we need mentors. I can honestly say, I have no idea where I would be and I don’t know how much damage I would have done to generations of students, if I didn’t have incredible mentors, if I didn’t have models, if I didn’t have those people who I could say, oh, wow, that’s the way this should be and I’ve got to get to that point.

Now, Will I ever be as good as those models? No, I know I won’t I just flat out know it but I can constantly strive because I had them in my head. But if I ignored those models, if I didn’t have those mentors, I wouldn’t know what it is I’m trying to do. You know, the old we don’t know, what we don’t know, is so powerful here.

But if we’ve seen those images, if we’ve worked with those people, and I think that is ultimately one of the most important things. I’ve often gone to places where someone I respect incredibly, is, let’s say, doing the choir for this conference, and I’ll walk into the room and there’s three people watching. And I’m thinking, why aren’t there more people watching this? This is a living legend. This is a person that if I could I’d watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, I puzzle at that.

So I hope that all of us will reach out and get mentors, no matter where we are, in what stage of the game. Someone told me the other day, they were a third year teacher. And they told me they got a call from a colleague, who was in their 25th year teaching. And I said oh about what, he said about mentoring. The young teacher told that to me, and I said, oh, so that person is going to serve as your mentor. And they said, Oh, no, no, no, no, it’s the other way around. The seasoned veteran teacher wanted me to be their mentor.

And I said, How so? They said because they felt lost with some issues of technology, with some issues of current trends and current philosophies, that they felt like they were behind. And they wanted to get better at this and asked this young third year teacher if they would serve as a mentor. And I remember being almost brought to tears thinking how wonderful a teacher that person must be, that they would reach out to someone who I would not as a senior person want to necessarily admit that I didn’t know something.

But here they had the confidence in themselves, and knew the importance of their role as a teacher to be able to say, I need to fix this.

Yes. Even if it means asking someone who’s been teaching for two minutes.

Peter Boonshaft
Absolutely. And the bottom line is, I have never met a good person in our profession, anywhere in the world that wouldn’t drop everything to help another teacher or colleague. And it might be I can’t do it right this minute but I promise you, I’m gonna call you after tonight and we’re gonna have a glass of wine and we’re going to talk about this. Or let’s do it right after school, or I promise you I’ll email you some ideas by the end of the week.

I’ve never heard anyone say No, I’m just not willing to help. I can’t even imagine a music teacher saying that. So it’s there for the asking. I will tell you a little story that really drives home to me the fact that we need to ask for help, I knew a gentleman pretty well, he had hosted me as a guest conductor a few times in a couple of conferences, and I was speaking at a conference and he was going to introduce me.

And so we were out in front of the room and we were just chatting. And he said, Well, I, you know, I retired, I said, I know how’s it feel? He said, it’s pretty good. He said, I’ve started a organisation of retired teachers, were going to go out and mentor young teachers, and they made a brochure and they said, free of charge, not a penny, you don’t even have to pay the mileage, we’ll come to you and we’ll help with anything. You need marching band inventory, we’ll do it. You want to help cleaning instruments, we’ll do it. And if you want to know how to do rehearsals better.

You want us to come before a concert and watch your rehearsals. You want more of this, whatever it is you want. They had five teachers that recently retired and said, You come tell us what you want and we’ll come to your school, we’ll help you. And I said, Wow, you’re going to be so busy, you won’t know what to do with yourself. I saw him I saw him a year later. And I said, How is it? He said, Oh, we stopped doing it. And I said, You got too busy. He said, No. Nobody bothered to ask.

We had no one ask us. Isn’t that amazing? None of them. And these were wonderful, wonderful teachers who had spent their whole careers honing their craft and I felt sorry for them. But I felt even more sorry that they weren’t asked. But you know, part of it is what we talked about that people don’t want to admit things and I was the biggest culprit of that when I was a new teacher, the biggest, no one on earth worse than me.

And I think part of it is we’re just so busy, we can’t figure there’s more time to do that. So I don’t fault people, you know, 100% on it. But I think we do need to carve out some time and say, This is really, I need to get another set of eyes on what I’m doing.

Yes, I think everyone needs to pause and take stock take, that time, you do need to. And you also need to ask, I know in our case, you just need to say ask your school as well. You know, you go well I can’t go observe someone because observation you know is one of the most powerful tools and I will never say no to someone who wants to come and hang out in my room.

And you’ve got to check it of course with your system. But most administrators will go sure they can come and do you know most administrators will let you go if you ask.

Peter Boonshaft
I think you’re right.

If you don’t ask just say Oh, no, no, I know, my school won’t let me. Have you asked?

Peter Boonshaft
It can’t hurt? There’s no disadvantage to asking. The worst it’s going to happen is they’ll say no or not this month. But you could do it next month.

Yes. So I think we need to ask, we need to observe. In our Kodály state chapter, we actually run something called open classrooms. And it’s run efficiently through our Kodály and they come in and observe officially in groups, various Kodály practitioners. That’s really powerful. And I think that’s an important thing that we run.

Peter Boonshaft
I think that’s wonderful. And you know, sometimes it doesn’t even need to be an outside person. I think in addition, one of the things that I’ve always espoused is to record our classes or rehearsals now, one has to be very careful, because the laws in different places and the rules in different schools might preclude this from happening. I know schools where no recording can be done.

But even if it’s just an audio recording of a rehearsal that you’re doing. So let’s say you learn a piece of music you’re going to do with your year eight band, or your six choir. What I would do is video record the rehearsal. Now not recording the students. That’s not part of this, it would be recording me. So I’m going to learn this piece.

I’m going to go teach this with my year six choir. And I’m going to have the video just on me, not on the students, just on me. And I’m going to record the entire lesson, the entire class of rehearsal and then I suggest going into a private room, maybe your living room or something and putting it on the video or on the television and watching the rehearsal. But more importantly, doing the rehearsal.

So you take that piece of music, and you sing as if you were one of those students. And you just say okay, I’m going to be an alto and I’m going to sing and you do everything that the altos did, you watch everything the altos, watched you feel everything the altos felt. You can do that as a trumpet player with your band, okay. Maybe not play trumpet, maybe play a secondary instrument, maybe pick up the clarinet and play the second clarinet part to that rehearsal of you conducting that you’re watching, just you, and you fulfill that rehearsal, just like your year eights did that day.

I think it’s one of the most eye opening things we can do. I’ve always said that our students are the best mirror what they see is what we get. And I think this is a way that we can actually see what our students are getting. And we can do things and say, Wait, no wonder the trombones didn’t come in at the trio, I was looking at the clarinets or no wonder they’re playing so bored.

I look like I’m falling asleep? Or why do I have that bizarre look on my face? Did I really just say that, it didn’t mean anything, it didn’t fix anything, because the students didn’t understand me. Or I wish I had a better facial expression because this piece could have come to life if I had done that, whatever it is, I think we could in so many ways learn from ourselves. Because each of us have watched so many rehearsals, have been in so many classes and lessons that we’re a pretty good barometer.

I know, every one of your listeners could sit for five minutes in any class of rehearsal and know whether it’s good or bad. And because we’ve done it enough, and at any point in our career, and I think by us doing this video of being ourselves, watching video of ourselves in rehearsals and in classes, we can be very, very critical and constructively critical. Now, I wouldn’t let people get too down on themselves. I mean, the whole point of the exercise is not to berate yourself, but it’s to write a list of things good and bad.

And that’s what I would ask people to do write a list of things, say Wow, it was really powerful when you gave it that analogy, or when you told the story. It really almost made people tear up, or I love it, when you make that facial expression, or your hands were great when they did it this way. All of those good things that we can then say I need to do more of that, as well those things that we wish we could get rid of and say, I need to get rid of that, I didn’t realise that I say that sentence over and over again.

I didn’t realise I’m looking at the same group of kids in rehearsal all the time. I didn’t realise X, Y and Z. So I think that can be a powerful tool as well.

That’s a great idea. And it would work for a classroom teacher as well. Just like video a lesson. Yes.

Peter Boonshaft
Absolutely, it works for anybody. Now again, one has to be careful to make sure that the rules allow for video, of course, but for me, I’ve always found that it’s okay when I’ve asked because I’m only videoing me, I’m not videoing students at all.

And then it’s fine. When the students are being pictured that I know the laws kick in pretty heartily, but I would still ask your headmaster or principal or whatever it is.

Yeah. And especially if it’s for your own reflection. And you know, you I won’t put it on the cloud anywhere, and you know, all of those things.

Peter Boonshaft
But it’s always better to get permission. And I think that’s one of those things. I think a headmaster might say, you’re not videoing any kids and it’s not going on the cloud. Yeah, fine. But that’s okay, at least I got permission.

Yes, yes, I think so. And do you know what, it doesn’t hurt for them to know that you are being so self reflective?

Peter Boonshaft
What a great point. I never thought of that. That’s exactly right. How much better they’re going to think of us when we say this is why I’m doing this? My goodness, I think that would be, Yeah, it’s a double win. Yeah.

And I think we actually hide our light under the bushel a little too much. I think we don’t tell, I think we’ve got to be careful how we do it. But I think we don’t tell our management, most of the amazing things we do. We just do them. And it’s amazing. And they have no idea.

They’ll see the little shiny concert and go, Oh, that’s great. But they don’t see the amazingness that is music education.

How to Encourage Administrators, Parents & Community to See Value in What You Do (Advocacy)

Peter Boonshaft
Well, you know, what’s funny, brings me to one of my soap boxes. And that is something that I always espouse. If people have heard me say before, I apologise. But I believe that one of the things we have to do, and the proverb that you just quoted, is one of my favourites, I really believe we have to be our own best help in this way.

And that is. It’s really easy to sit back and complain that the administration of the school doesn’t appreciate what I do as a music teacher, doesn’t appreciate music education, doesn’t see the value of music, education. I think we can talk until we are blue in the face.

But one of the things that I’ve always felt it’s so important for our advocacy efforts, for our having a place at the table more is that we need to help those people understand what we do. And the best way for me to do that is to have them participate, not have them come watch, because coming and watching a rehearsal or a class, it helps a little bit. It’s not a bad thing.

But it’s not the same. I need them to feel not just see. So one of the things I’ve espoused is, have an administrator come and be the narrator for a piece of music, that they have to come and rehearse with the little children’s choir or high school band or whatever it is, and they have to rehearse.

Now, the first thing they’re going to say probably is I don’t read music, I can’t do this. That’s okay. You don’t need to read music. I’m going to point to you and you just start reading. Or I’m going to point to you or have someone else point to you, and you say this, and they’ll say, ‘Really that’s all I have to do?’ That’s all you have to do.

Peter Boonshaft
But by doing that they come and they have to watch rehearsal. They have to be part of rehearsal, and they’re gonna sit there as you rehearse the students and say, I never understood this before. I didn’t realise they’re speaking in different languages, some graphics, some with words, they’re processing things in 14 different ways.

They’re doing this, this and this, all of this being done non verbally, all of this being done with facial expressions and emotion and then expressing themselves in ways that are absolutely innumerable. All of a sudden they become eye opened when it comes to, I didn’t know this is what happened in this classroom, I didn’t know that that’s what these students got from music.

And I think we are our own worst enemy when we lock ourselves in that little room and make noise, as opposed to bringing those people in. So if we can’t do a piece with narrator, fine, have the headmaster come down and narrate a piece and narrate something that’s appropriate for before a piece, but they have to come to rehearsal. And they have to be there to practice this with us. And they get to understand and they get to watch.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had people do this, or I’ve done it, where people have in administration all of a sudden say, you know, I was never in music. I think I had classroom music until third grade and that was it. And, and I don’t really know much, but now I understand what these kids do. I understand the value of this. And if it wasn’t since year three they had a music class. This is really eye opening.

And I think we can do that more often. There was a little piece of music written by a composer here in the states many, many many years ago called Concerto Gross, and it was a little piece for elementary band and the little soloist group was made of people playing things like kazoos and harmonica and slide whistle.

Peter Boonshaft
And I remember the one I vividly remember was, you took a salami and you hit a tam tam or a gong with it. All of these funny things. It was comical, but I did it once with a group of administrators from a school district. We had the superintendent, we had principals, we had headmasters, we had the director of curriculum, all these people, we signed them up to do it.

And of course, once the superintendent of schools said they were coming, of course, all the rest did. They had to come to rehearsal, every one of them had to be there and watch the rehearsal. And they would get a cue from me and I’m telling you, I think anything could have happened and music would still have been fine, because they had a new appreciation for what these young kids did, in making and understanding and processing music.

For many of them, I think in that case, none of them had ever really done much with music. And then if you can get someone who does. So let’s say you have an assistant headmaster who is a very fine singer, have them come into a solo with with the children’s choir or whatever it happens to be, anything we can do to get people involved. So they not just get to appreciate what we do. They understand what we do.

That is such an amazing suggestion for advocacy, isn’t it, really powerful. Because one of the things we’re going to try to is to ask parents, because parents are important people to get on board too, is to sit amongst the rehearsal with their child and get their child to show them how, even if it’s three notes, you know, they’re beginners, and they’re sitting there having this new appreciation, but why not also do that sort of thing with administrators, that’s great.

Peter Boonshaft
One of my favourite things is if you have a beginning class of let’s say, 30, instrumentalists, set up 60 more chairs, and have one on either side of the student. And they get to bring a significant person in their life. It could be a grandmother, it could be a mother, it could be an uncle, it could be a family friend. And they get these two important people in their lives to sit on either side.

And they get to watch this little miniature rehearsal that we would do as their young person, not just does this for fun, does this as part of their education, and what they’re learning and what they’re able to do. I think it’s cool. Yeah.

Well, while we’re on the advocacy train, would there be anything else you could add? Because they’re both great suggestions?

Peter Boonshaft
Well, I think they are some of my favourite ones. I think what one of the things that you touched on is that we can’t hide that light under a bushel. And I think we have to be really good at making public what has happened in music, so that we could have a little blurb go out in the little village newspaper that we live in, talking about what the kids did today, or having a section of the week for our choir, and there’s a picture of all the sopranos.

And we don’t need to tell them that we’re going to go in score order in next week it’s going to be the second sopranos and then it’ll be the first altos it doesn’t matter. Oh, one day, we could have the clarinets, the next week we can have the trumpets and have them come out. If a guest does come in, make a big to do about it, have it in the newspaper, all of those kinds of things.

So anytime that we can be our own best commercial, if you will, for what what we’re doing, but it’s not what we’re doing. It’s what our students are doing. I think that’s what’s most important here is that we do it aligned in that manner.

Yes, keep it focused on the students. You’ve just given us so many ideas and thoughts and I don’t know, I feel even if possible, I feel even stronger, that what we do is important. So you’ve just reinforced that. Was there anything else that you wanted to add? You’ve already given us so many nuggets, but my listeners know I always talk about nuggets of fabulous, is there anything else that you really wanted to say that you haven’t yet?

Peter Boonshaft
Well, no, and I certainly don’t want to bore anyone.

You’re not boring us, it’s amazing.

Final Words of Wisdom from Peter Boonshaft

Peter Boonshaft
I think it’s really comes back to just remembering, all of us remember, and I think we have to remember many things, a myriad of things we have to remember back to when we first started teaching and how excited we were doing that. We have to remember when we get tired, we have to remember what it was like to be a student learning to shift on a violin the first time and how frustrating that could be. And how it would have been easier if we had 10 steps to learn that rather than one, we have to remember how it felt to be in that classroom, learning to play a game to let us chase the squirrel with little year twos.

And how insecure we might have been in that role, we have to remember every aspect, you know. I think that’s part of being a great teacher is to remember everything that our students had to go through, have to go through and will go through based on our experiences, and based on our experience as teachers seeing what other students have done. It’s all well and good to say, I wish Jimmy could do that better. Well, I think maybe we have to think what it was like when we were in Jimmy’s place. What were the other things that acted upon that.

How Important We Are in the Lives of Children

Peter Boonshaft
And then another thing we need to remember is how important we are in the lives of every child we teach. And I think this is what I would want to drive home if I possibly could to all of your listeners that the power of music, we all understand, none of us would have committed and dedicated our lives to it if we didn’t feel that power. But I think what we need to do is go beyond that and to remember how important we are as music educators in the lives of all these kids, that you know, I’ve always said that every child on earth deserves to hear something beautiful every day.

Peter Boonshaft
And it’s been my mantra for for decades. I think that if we don’t do that, it quite possibly might not happen. And we have to think of it in those terms that that by every day helping them find beauty in themselves, in their world, in what they can do, in the art of music and in everything else they do. If we can help them find that our day is a success, whether those two quavers were even in the piece they sang, does it really matter if this child smiled from ear to ear, because it’s something touched a chord, something grabbed their heart. And I think that’s what we have to never ever lose sight of.

No matter how tired we are, no matter how frustrated we are, no matter what we feel, what we’re deficient in, we have to constantly keep in focus that our job is helping young people to touch their very soul, to come to understand beauty in the world, to come to understand and appreciate themselves and others around them. And I can’t think of anything better in this world to do with one’s life than to help young people find that.

I don’t think we should say anymore. I think we should leave that right there. And thank you from not just the bottom of our hearts, but from our whole heart. Thank you, Dr. Peter Boonshaft.

Peter Boonshaft
Thank you so much, Debbie. It was such a joy and I hope we can do it again anytime. And I wish all of you, your listeners and you the best and all the joy that music has to offer.


Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes and transcript and all sorts of information on If you’ve enjoyed the podcast or found it valuable, you might like to rate it on your podcast player and leave a review. I’d really appreciate it if you did. All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye.

Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.
Did you hear about the two silkworms that were in a race?
It ended in a tie.

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Books by Peter Boonshaft

Where to find me:

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