A Commission to Teach: A Music Teacher’s Story
By UPC Faculty Member Lexi Monson
I’m five years old, sliding off my muddy pink snow boots as silently as I can to keep from disturbing the rehearsal. I have been begging my mother to bring me along all week. I snuggle up with my Winnie the Pooh blanket in an unforgiving wooden concert hall seat and enjoy the fragments of Lucia di Lammermoor the conductor rehearses this evening. Try as I might, my eyelids refuse to stay open through the second act; it’s far past my bedtime.
I’m seventeen years old, softening the pleats on my well-worn concert gown; I’ve lived this pre-performance moment enough, but ever present still are the fluttering butterflies in my stomach. Vocal solo- done. Celeste solo- done. Harp Cadenza- done. Organ accompaniment- done. Tomorrow I win the school talent show. Next week I perform as a nun in Suor Angelica.
I’m twenty-one years old, drowning in homework and dates and commitments and rehearsals. The music building of my University has filled the position of living room. Perhaps I’ll make time to call my mom between choir and work. I jot down chord progressions of the cafe background music on a napkin during lunch. My roomates have begun to notice my odd habit of singing while I sleep. Ensembles meet several times a day, private lessons are both taken and taught, and it’s a rare week that doesn’t include at least one performance.
Busier than ever, I remain incessantly joyful. As said Ray Charles, “I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene.”
All of mortality is born with music inside us. Watch a baby start bouncing when a song starts to play, listen to toddlers loo and lah nonsensically as they daydream, watch a kindergartener beat on pots and pans and discover new ways to combine the sounds in time. Just as social, emotional, mental, and physical intelligences are fostered in each of us, Howard Gardener discusses music as a basic human intelligence. Since my own childhood, I clung to that innate appreciation for music and- with the help of passionate teachers and parents- developed an aptitude for musical progress. Years of practice, lessons, performances, composition, arranging, auralization, and theoretical education have led me to where I am now and continue to propel me forward into greater musical exploration.
During my high school years I explored various other interests- naturally- in an effort to explore all possible vocations I might enjoy. During my junior year I deduced that the most promising future for me was to be found in chemical engineering. I was a big proponent for women in the S.T.E.M. fields, found the projected salary decent, and have always had a knack for science and mathematics. However, I came to a point during the fall of my Senior year when I stumbled upon the realization that I consistently had more music in my backpack than I did school books.
Music never evolved from a hobby into a career- rather- I simply came to the realization that music was an incessant presence, while school had simply been serving me as a pleasant hobby for nearly the entirety of my formative upbringing.
While music was undeniably a relentless force in my life, I also readily recognized that there was simply something about my interpersonal connections with other human beings and a need for specific daily interactions that would inevitably- for me at least- rule out a career as a performer.
Bringing now into frame perhaps the most important factor in my decision to be a teacher; my lifelong study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entirety of our Divine Father’s plan for us through the course of our indeterminate pre-mortal existence, this mortal lifetime, and the eternities that will follow- is progress. Indeed, it is our Eternal progression that fills the entirety of His Eternal purpose. In other words, He who I believe to be the supreme creator of the universe and all things that in them are- cares about nothing more than our individual learning and application. In all things we are to learn and progress until we one day have a perfect understanding of all things.
What more is a teacher then, than a facilitator of the most divine purpose in the universe? Is there anything more fulfilling than facilitating that which fulfills God? I came to feel that nothing would bring more meaning into my life than taking up a commission to teach.
Applying that decision to become a music teacher has proved to be the most rewarding decision of my life. It is such a blessing to act as a mentor and guide as someone learns musical abilities that allow them to connect through music. “To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?”(Michael Jackson). Music is a part of each of us, and I get a front row seat to little humans developing the capacity to set free the music inside them.