My senior year of high school began thirty years ago this month. A lifetime ago really. Back in 1989, I thought I would become a music teacher like my band director/role model Mr. Craig Buck. However, as John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy” (a song featured years later in “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, a film about a high school band director): “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
As a senior in high school, my musical future looked bright. Having enjoyed a great deal of success as a trombone player in Hannibal High School’s award-winning jazz, concert, and marching bands, I decided to really challenge myself during my final year of school.
I auditioned to become co-drum major of the Pirate Pride Marching Band and lead our highly-regarded ensemble in rehearsals and on the field during football games and competitions. I taught myself how to play the baritone horn and became proficient enough to earn high ratings as a soloist at the state music festival. I earned several recognitions and certificates for my trombone solos at jazz competitions and was presented with the prestigious John Philip Sousa Award by my music teacher, an honor bestowed upon the top student in a high school band program.
Two distinguished colleges offered me generous scholarships to pursue my dream of becoming a music teacher. Inexplicably, I opted to attend the University of Missouri, which did not offer me a dime. Sensing that I would have to work exceedingly hard at improving as a musician and as a student of music theory in order to teach the subject, I decided not to pursue my dream.
While at Mizzou, I was a member of the non-competitive Jazz Lab Band for a few semesters. I took an introduction to piano class and a couple of music history courses, but eventually I drifted completely away from the music program and into the bottom of a great big barrel of booze.
I did manage to graduate—barely. However, I learned the hard way that a 2.4 cumulative grade point average and a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy does not impress prospective employers nearly as much as I had hoped. Over the years, I labored as a meat cutter, a groundskeeper, a car salesman, and a dog treat baker, but I never earned a penny as a musician.
Seven years ago, I decided to give substitute teaching a try, and I quickly discovered that I loved it. And I realized, to my surprise, that I was pretty good at it, too. Inspired to take a second look at becoming a full-time teacher, I explored several options for getting certified.
Unfortunately, I learned that my lackluster GPA is not good enough to satisfy the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s requirements for licensure. Taking post-baccalaureate classes to raise my GPA is not allowed, and alternative certification programs are only an option with a 2.75 undergraduate grade point average. My only path towards licensure would be to go back to college, start over, get much better grades, and earn a teaching degree. Although it would take a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money, I have not completely ruled it out.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to carve out a rewarding niche for myself at Southern Boone Primary School over the last few years, subbing frequently in kindergarten, first, and second grades. It almost feels like I am a full-time teacher, especially when I take on long-term assignments.
Unsurprisingly, one subject I particularly enjoy teaching is music. The amazing and generous music teachers I’ve subbed for have allowed me to create my own lesson plans, lead rehearsals for concerts and musicals, and even sing the school song at assemblies in their absence. It’s often hard to tell who’s having more fun when I teach music—the kids or me.
Through no fault of our school’s most recent music teacher, a dear friend of mine who tendered her resignation last Spring, the Southern Boone School District is currently searching for a certified music educator to teach at the Primary School. Due to circumstances beyond the school’s control, the position unexpectedly became vacant again just two weeks ago, making it especially difficult to find and hire a qualified candidate before the swiftly-approaching start of the new school year.
I am overjoyed to report that thirty years after abandoning my childhood dream of becoming a music teacher, I accepted an offer to become the interim music teacher at SoBoCo Primary School for the 2019-2020 school year. Though the assignment will only last until a permanent replacement can be found, the job is mine for the foreseeable future, and I intend to enjoy every single minute of it while I can.
Thank you, Brandy Clark, and the rest of the district administration, for entrusting me with this incredible opportunity. And thank you, Mr. Buck for inspiring me and believing in me all those years ago.
Friends, don’t ever give up on your dreams. It may take three decades or longer, but believe me, dreams really do come true.