Goals for the Musical Road to Success

Photo credit: FreeImages.com, photographer Matt Hains

Making mature and meaningful decisions to plan personal practice

As the school concert season draws to a close and summer is almost upon us, now is the perfect time to reflect on a little musical goal-setting, complete a personal inventory and needs assessment (in what areas do I need help?), foxsfiresidesprioritize what’s the most important, and define several new “practice plans.”

Do you recall a cartoon with Lucy van Pelt bossing Charlie Brown around and handing him his own very long list of New Year’s resolutions? Except for your parents and the music teachers who know YOU, it isn’t usually effective for someone else to pick your goals. (Of course, if you don’t listen to the suggestions from your music directors and private teachers, there’s a good chance you will never improve!) Sitting around doing nothing, accepting things as they are now, and randomly floating from one task to another accidentally “making music” without foresight or planning are not likely to work. Inattention and osmosis are slow ways to achieve anything in life. Obviously, you must be motivated, ambitious, focused, and committed to “whatever it takes” on the pathways towards self-improvement and musical mastery!

According to “goals experts” (such as the One Minute Manager book by Kenneth Blanchard and the Utah State University recommendations below), to create meaningful personal goals, they should:

  • Be written down (Take the time and post them in your room!);
  • Be specific (Keep it focused, simple, and to the point!);
  • Be concrete (Exactly what/how do you need to do?);
  • Be measurable (How do you know when you’ve succeeded?);
  • Be viewed and reviewed often (Look at them daily/weekly/monthly, and every time you practice!);
  • Be shared (Show them to your music teacher and/or parents/spouse!);
  • Be flexible and change as needed (Modify and adjust – set new goals!);
  • Have a time frame (When will these have to be completed?).

ALL students, parents, and teachers – CLICK ON THIS LINK! Download, print, and read Getting What You Want – How to Make Goals: https://www.usu.edu/asc/assistance/pdf/goal_setting.pdf

seriestoshare-logo-01Your practice should have well-defined goals. What do you want to learn as a musician? Are there particular pieces of music, styles, or technical skills you would like to be able to play? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you decide what work is needed and assist defining specific learning targets. If you have a private teacher, he/she will automatically prescribe objectives for you, based on your present strengths and weaknesses. But if you desire to join the local youth symphony, participate in a music festival, play in a pit orchestra, perform solos or chamber music, become a conductor, help coach your peers, or want to improve a specific technical skill or general musicianship, make sure your teachers know it! They may be able to share warm-ups, strategies, or practice materials that will help you improve and expand your knowledge, technique, expressiveness, sight-reading and ear training.

Here are some goal-related questions to ask yourself (consider several of these):

  1. Have you signed up for the local band or string camp?
  2. Have you made arrangements to take a few lessons on your instrument or even on piano or music theory over the summer?
  3. What was the last method book you used? Did you finish it? How many pieces can you memorize from it?
  4. When was the last time you performed a solo or two and recorded yourself? Wouldn’t it be fun to video yourself playing a mini-recital and sending the DVD to your grandmother or grandfather?
  5. One of the greatest challenges in performance is sight reading. Can you pull-out a random piece of music (even something written for a different instrument) and play it straight through without stopping?
  6. Pick your greatest weakness or problem on the instrument. What needs your attention? New keys, rhythms, articulations?
  7. Ask your teacher what would be an appropriate exercise book. Can you define several new challenging goals in playing scales, arpeggios, other warm-ups, or études specifically geared for your instrument?
  8. For Western Pennsylvania residents, did you know the South Hills Junior Orchestra is always open to new instrumentalists? SHJO begins its Saturday practices a week after Labor Day (USCHS Band Room 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). Everyone is welcome to play in 2-4 free-trial practices!

Take a trip to the South Hills Junior Orchestra website. Under “Resources,” check out the three sets of free “Series to Share…” additional “Fox’s Fireside” issues by Paul K. Fox, and “Music Enrichment Workshop” presentations by Donna Stark Fox.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

This “Series to Share” is brought to you by… the Founding Directors of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), “A Community Orchestra for All Ages” based in Western Pennsylvania. Feel free to download a printable copy and distribute to music students, parents, teachers, and fellow amateur musicians.

SHJO rehearses most Saturdays in the band room of the Upper St. Clair High School, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. New members are always welcome! For more information, please go to www.shjo.org.

What is the National Creativity Network?

Part V: The Ultimate Resource for Creativity News, Methodology, Research, and Contacts

NCN

If you have not done so previously, drop everything, knock off a couple hours, and visit and consume a heaping portion of the National Creativity Network website: http://nationalcreativitynetwork.org/.

the-author-5-1166957It can’t get any better than this! Probably the most comprehensive one-stop vault of articles and “friends of NRN” sources for further study, the NCN provides an extensive collection of creativity tools: news stories (still current as of the week of April 7, 2017), quotes, webinars, blog-posts, past competitions like the USA Creative Business Cup, and a Board of Directors from across North America including many “giants in the field” like one of my heroes Sir Ken Robinson (California),  along with George Tzougros (Wisconsin), Margaret Collins (North Carolina), Steve Dahlberg (Connecticut), Carrie Fitzsimmons (Massachusetts), Peter Gamwell (Ottawa, Canada), Jean Hendrickson (Oklahoma), Wendy Liscow (New Jersey), Susan McCalmont (Oklahoma), Robert Morrison, Scott Noppe Brandon, David O’Fallon (Minnesota), Andrew Ranson, Susan Sclafani (Washington D.C.), and Haley Simons (Alberta, Canada).

dennis_cheek_4_09_5x7_02According to their website, Dennis Cheek is the Executive Director of the National Creativity Network (right).

Since it so large and links will lead to many different websites, I recommend revisiting their site often. Start with their news feed section (http://nationalcreativitynetwork.org/?page_id=18).

The following is reprinted directly from the National Creativity Network website, and should be used as a model or “food for thought” towards the infusion and prioritizing creativity in education and business settings. Bon appétit!  PKF

National Creativity Network

OUR VISION:

A vibrant and flourishing North America where imagination, creativity, and innovation are routinely valued, skillfully applied, and continuously expanded.

OUR MISSION:

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The National Creativity Network engages, connects, informs, promotes, and counsels cross-sector stakeholders who skillfully use imagination, creativity and innovation to foster vibrant and flourishing individuals, institutions and communities across North America.

OUR CORE BELIEFS:

  • Imagination is the bedrock of human creativity and remains an underdeveloped and under-utilized resource.
  • Creativity is present in every human being and can be further nurtured and developed.
  • Innovation entrepreneurially figures out how to make creative ideas function well in the real world at a scale that matters.
  • A desirable future for institutions, communities, and societies depends upon continuously finding imaginative, creative, and innovative solutions to profound and complex challenges.
  • Supportive environments are essential to the unleashing of imagination, expression of creativity, and realization of innovation.

NCN’s EXISTS TO:

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpark local, regional, state and provincial, and national movements to create environments—in homes, schools, workplaces, communities and public offices—where every person is inspired to grow creatively.
  • Develop grassroots networks of organizations and regions to facilitate the exchange of ideas, models and “best questions” as well as providing support and processes for those who want to take part.
  • Serve as a national and international thought leader and influential policy voice for matters related to imagination, creativity, and innovation.
  • Seek new national and global partners whom we can engage, connect, understand, and promote.
  • Provide high quality, synthesized, and timely information across geographies, sectors, problems, activities, and needs.
  • Facilitate cross-sectoral (education, commerce, culture, and government) and cross-regional work that tackles difficult and perennial obstacles to progress in North America.

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We accept the following working definitions for our work, adapted with permission from the book imagination first: Unlocking the Power of Possibility by Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon (Jossey-Bass, 2009):

Imagination is the capacity to conceive of what is not yet present or manifest.

Creativity is imagination applied (“imagination at work”) to do or make something that flows from the prior capacity to conceive of the new.

Innovation consists of further creative actions that advance the form, depth, reach, and richness of that which has been brought into being.

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits: artist palette-John Nyberg, imagination-Svilen Milev, photographer-Bob Knight, clay artist-Stefano Barni, and musician-Rita Mezzela at FreeImages.com

All Eyes Are on the Job Resume

Music Teacher Resumes Revisited: Planning, Creating, and Maintaining

“The resume is the first impression an employer receives about you as a candidate and also serves as your marketing tool.” – Carnegie Mellon University Career and Professional Development Center at http://www.cmu.edu/career/resumes-and-cover-letters/index.html
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walking document of “everything you always wanted to know about you” is your professional resume.

Inasmuch as it serves as an extended version of your business card, a “quick look” of your personal brand, an easy-access to contact information, and a showcase of your accomplishments and experiences, it is essential you invest a lot of time on the planning, careful review, creation, and constantly updating of your resume.

Here are a few tips I can offer, supported by websites like those listed at the end of this blog. My favorite resource for soon-to-be graduating musicians and music educators alike the-violinist-1413441is the “Prepare Your Materials” section of the Institute for Music Leadership, Eastman School of Music (ESM)/University of Rochester, Careers and Professional Development (https://www.esm.rochester.edu/iml/careers/library.php), where you can download comprehensive guides for creating a resume, cover letter, and philosophy of music education, and browse audition tips and interview questions. You should remember to revisit this link over the coming summer months when, as noted by the Eastman Careers Advisor, a major revision of these materials is targeted for completion.

  1. Keep it short and simple. Most people agree on the recommendation that no more than two pages is sufficient. According to The Ladders, an online career resource service (see http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-long-should-resume-be), class-1552432“Professional resume writers urge their clients to first try to trim their resumes down to a maximum of two pages.” One exception for a three-pager might be if the job seeker was to transition from one field to another, having to cover both sets of the candidate’s skills, qualities, and experiences.
  2. The format, style, and overall design should be clean and foster clarity. The resume is a reflection of your mission, professionalism, organizational skills, and even personal judgment and intellect. Yes, you want to layout the content to highlight your skills and grab the reader’s attention, but you do not want to clutter it with crowded text, over-use of multiple fonts, or fail to provide enough white-space separation between sections and margins. In Pulling the Pieces of the Job Hunt Puzzle Together for Your Success at http://www.powerful-sample-resume-formats.com/resume-fonts.html, it is suggested that you limit your choices to just one or a few of the most well-recognized drum-10-1502688and easy-to-read fonts in your collection. “Your goal is not to make your resume beautiful to your eyes… it’s to make it extremely readable to the people doing the screening and hiring.”
  3. A K-12 music teacher resume is no place to broadcast a limited vision or capacity of your skills and experiences. In other words, don’t label yourself as any kind of music specialist (e.g. band director), thereby eliminating all of the other music teaching jobs in which you are certified. I have tried to underscore the importance of modeling yourself as a competent, comprehensive “Generalist,” not a single-subject “Expert” (which may decrease your chances in finding a job) in a previous blog: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/.
  4. Consider the difference between a traditional resume (mostly a record of subjects, titles, or positions using nouns) versus a qualifications brief (verbs or action words that truly describe what you have done). When I approached getting a job back in 1978, most resumes were just lists. Many now say that giving more meaning or “the stories” SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAbehind the job assignments, field experiences,  or awards… is better. What did you do in each situation, what did you learn, and how did you grow? Check out author Diana in NoVa’s ideas at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/10/993023/-The-Qualifications-Brief-When-Should-You-Use-It. This viewpoint is furthered by Dr. Ralph Jagodka at http://instruction2.mtsac.edu/rjagodka/BUSM66_Course/Qualifications_Brief.htm. “Start a ‘Profile Folder’ that contains paragraphs about what specific skills you possess.  In this folder, focus on identifying all of your knowledge, skills and abilities (in separate paragraphs),” writing them in terms of accomplishments (not just duties and responsibilities).  This matches several of my “sermons” posted in previous blogs on “Marketing Professionalism” (especially https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/), where I echo Dr. Jagodka sentiments about “develop a plethora of anecdotes regarding the various solutions you can provide,” in this case, for the leadership staff of prospective school districts, school buildings, and specific music class teaching assignments.
  5. Go online and study samples of resumes, their standardization and band-of-boys-1426209-1conventions of grammar, punctuation, style, and order of presentation. For example, for new music educators entering the field, it is generally recommended that you list your experience, education, and achievements chronologically starting with the most recent at the top of each section. According to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Resume, “chronological resumes are used for showing a steady growth in a particular career field.” That is perfect for the average college student entering the field of music education for the first time!
  6. Prepare the draft – gather and rank the importance of all your data. This could mean prioritizing and peering down from a list of your strengths, accomplishments, education, and experiences (see http://jobsearch.about.com/od/resumetips/qt/resumecontent.htm). A music supervisor or curriculum leader might be interested in hearing about your solo and ensemble performance experience, recitals, chamber music, compositions/arrangements, examples of jazz improvisation and/or Neonsinging, etc. However, from an administrator’s perspective, it may be more important to know about the prospective music teacher’s field experiences and previous employment working with children, classroom management skills, professional development goals and initiative (would you be interested in coaching or directing extracurricular activities?), teamwork and leadership skills, personality traits like patience/even temperament/self-discipline, and knowledge of a few “buzz words” of educational terminology and acronyms (like The Common Core, DOK/HOTS, IEP, PLC, RTI, UBD, formative/summative assessments, etc. You are welcome to review some of these completing a crossword puzzle at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/.)
  7. Is creating one resume good enough for all job openings? Perhaps not. According to Lannette Price in her blog Five Simple Tips for Building a Resume at https://www.resume.com/blog/5-simple-tips-when-building-a-resume/, you should “understand the position and tailor the resume.” She emphasizes this point. “Always look over a job posting and use the similar or the same words as the job description to highlight what has been accomplished in previous job situations.” guitar-woman-1435839Among her other suggestions are writing “an objective statement” which summarizes your goals to being employed at the school district, “support skills sets with problem solving examples” (see #4 above), and “proofread, proofread, proofread” for accuracy and to enhance your image. Sloppy resumes with typos or misspellings project the wrong message to prospective employers.

So, take the time, and “do it right!” Peruse numerous online samples and anything given to you by your university’s career center or music department. Share a draft of your resume with family members, college roommates, and/or trusted music ed buddies. (Accept their constructive criticism.) Be ready to adapt/update your document for a particular job.

Final piece of advice? Read these and other web resources for building/maintaining your resume. Good luck, and “happy hunting!”

PKF

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox