Stress, Burnout, & Stage Fright in College

Resources for Music and Music Education Majors

Increasingly,  in some parts of the country there are new shortages of qualified, experienced, skilled, and engaging public and private school teachers, even in the fields of Performing Arts. (For examples, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/28/teacher-shortages-affecting-every-state-as-2017-18-school-year-begins/?utm_term=.c599b1d39405.)

At the same time, although it may not seem to be hustle-and-bustle-1738072_1920_geraltdocumented to a great extent, stress, burnout, and stage fright have become real concerns for music education majors completing their coursework, juries/recitals/concerts, methods exams, student teaching, and other field experiences. This may be affecting statistics on college enrollments, graduation rates, and job placements!

It would seem we should be recruiting more music educators (not losing them as “failed” music/music education majors). Where should we look for answers to this problem?

“Burnout is fatigue and diminished interest caused by long-term stress. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. In the university music atmosphere, stress and burnout are prevalent accepted as part of the culture. Symptoms and causes of general stress and burnout have been well researched, but much less has been presented on college musicians’ burnout, let alone how to deal with it.” — Helen Orzel

 

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The purpose of this blog-post is to share studies, surveys, and articles of research on the causes for stress and “drop-outs” of music and music educator majors, along with proposals of remedies for reducing college student anxiety and recommendations for alleviating the problem of attrition.

An overview of collegiate performance anxiety elucidates numerous emotional triggers:

  1. anxiety-2019928_1920_WokandapixCollege funding
  2. Academic pressures: acquiring new knowledge, understandings, skills, etc.
  3. Competition (both in self-perception of achievement and in relation to peers)
  4. Trends in seeking perfectionism
  5. Coping with being away from home
  6. Sleep deprivation
  7. Challenges with personal relationships
  8. Development of new strategies and systems of personal organization and time management

If you find additional sources or statistics, please pass them on. Click on the above comment link so we can add them to this discussion.

 

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College Student Stress

The best summary I have found on this subject is from the recently released Fall 2018 issue of the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) – PMEA News. (For full access, become a member of PMEA.) Read the article on page 52, “Music Major Anxiety – Causes and Coping” by Kevin Shorner-Johnson, National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Society for nafme_society_research_music_edMusic Teacher  Education (SMTE) PA State Chair and Director of Music Education at Elizabethtown College. He talks about anxiety as “the leading mental health issue among adolescents and college students,” and examines the stressors of academic expectations, time management, “perfectionism,” and amygdala and cortex-rooted stress disorders, as well as cultivating practices of self-care and coping skills.

Shorner-Johnson recommends the book, Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry by Catherine Pittman and Elizabeth Karle (2015).

“Pittman and Karle provide beautiful guides and checklists that may assist students in building coping skills such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, prayer, yoga, exercise, and chanting. Coping strategies can allow us to enter into tension, getting to know origins and triggers, and transforming anxieties into new forms of centered awareness. Like music, coping strategies are skills that can only be cultivated through practice. When we practice self-care, we rewire associated connections and empower new responses.”  — Kevin Shorner-Johnson

 

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For a comprehensive survey on the stressors of music majors, peruse the illuminating thesis of H.J. Orzel (2010) “Undergraduate Music Student Stress and Burnout.” She states that her study has a two-fold purpose:

  • Examine sources of stress and burnout for undergraduate music students, and
  • Examine existing methods of controlling stress and burnout.
  • This information can also be a tool for college music students needing
    help with stress and burnout.

“A college musician’s environment can significantly influence stress levels. Environmental stressors include overworked professors unable to provide support,
competitive peers, lack of resources such as practice space or counseling services,
overburdened schedules, and high standards and expectations set by institutions…
Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the effects of environmental stress, promoting resilience.” — Helen Orzel

In her conclusion, she mentions these possible strategies to alleviate stress:

  1. stress-391657_1920_geraltLearning to “manage your burdens,” class schedules, assignments, calendar, etc.
  2. Improvement of personal time management towards greater work/life balance
  3. Development of coping skills for new environments
  4. Exploration of new practice venues and study routines
  5. Allocation of more time with supportive peers
  6. Learning to make manageable choices, setting of limitations and reasonable expectations for making future commitments
  7. Practice of relaxation, slow breathing, and meditation exercises
  8. Strategies for reduction of performance anxiety and “stage fright”
  9. Reflection on and rehash of personal mission, goals, and motivations, and “what first inspired them to pursue music”

 

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H. Christian Bernard II from the State University of New York at Fredonia offers his research-based article Contemplative Practices in Music Teacher Education, describing efforts to incorporate contemplative studies within a music curriculum (Sarath 2006), mindfulness instruction on the music listening experiences (Diaz 2013), mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention instruction (Shapiro, Schwartz, and Bonner 1998), short-term meditation practices on attention and self-regulation (Tang lonely-1510265_1920_PoseMuse2009), “deep listening” as “a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment” (Barbezat and Bush 2014), contemplative movement activities including methodologies of Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, and Gordon adapted for other music teaching contexts (Benedict, 2010), walking meditation, tai chi ch’uan, yoga, and labyrinth walking (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, 2016), contemplative reading, writing, and other self-help practices.

“Contemplation is not the opposite of thinking but its complement. It is not the emptying of the mind of thoughts but the cultivation of awareness of thoughts within the mind. Through contemplation, the mind is open to itself.”                                               — D.P. Barbezat and M. Bush.

“Utilizing contemplative practices including meditation, reading and writing, movement, and listening can offer students and teachers opportunities for meaningful experiences while simultaneously reducing levels of stress and anxiety. While mindfulness is a prerequisite for all contemplative practices, this secular and academic application goes beyond deepening of awareness and compassion to also include deepening of thinking and learning. Care should be used when selecting resources and activities, as the use of contemplative practices should always serve as an aid to, not a replacement for, effective music teaching and learning.”   — H. Christian Bernard II

Bernard also provides an excellent bibliography for further study, and has also written many other related articles:

 

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Burnout

An outstanding series of YouTube video presentations dives into what “five different research studies have to say about burnout and the undergraduate music education major, and the implications these studies have for students, professors, and administrators when it comes to managing the stress often associated with this degree.” As a requirement for her graduate music psychology class, Meghan Johnson presented “Burnout and the Undergraduate Music Education Major: Surviving the Stress” in 2010:

Additional resources regarding pre- and in-service music teacher burnout:

 

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Performance Anxiety

Dr. Natalie Ozeas, formerly Professor and Head of Music Education at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), shares a new local initiative for addressing the problem of stage fright by Anne Jackovic Moskal, a member of the Pittsburgh Benedum Orchestra and solfege teacher at the CMU School of Music.

“The text that I use for my class is Musician’s Yoga by Mia Olson. We work a lot with meditation, especially focused towards the music we are currently working on. We practice by either listening to recordings or simply thinking of the whole work in their mind and how to continuously breath through it. The thought is that they will be able to move past anxious moments in performances and feel the constant breath instead. Additionally, we take meditation walks and practice the same method. Some of these methods are addressed in this book. We also have a physical practice to reinforce breathing through challenges. However, a significant part is to stretch, repair, restore, and strengthen our bodies from the damage of long practice sessions.”                            — Anne Jackovic Moskal

There are a myriad of sources on the web geared to performers for lessening stage fright, including blogposts like “A Few Things Every Musician Should Know About Stage Fright” by Noa K Kageyama from BulletproofMusician.

 

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NAfME members have free access to numerous articles on performance anxiety. Several articles published in the Music Educators Journal (MEJ) include “Stress in the Lives of Music Students” by David J. Sternbach (January 2008), “The Other Side of Stage Fright” by Donald L. Hamann (April 1985), and “Stage Fright – Its Cause and Cure” by Rowland W. Dunham (1953).

“To help your students reduce stress, address the ways they critique their practice and prepare for performance… Excessive self-criticism in practicing can be a predisposing factor for performance anxiety.” — David J. Sternbach

nafme“When musicians think about performing, they eventually think about performance anxiety — ‘stage fright.’ Performance anxiety can be defined as a physical and mental deviation from a ‘normal state’ and is perhaps one of the most misunderstood areas of performance practice… A reduction in anxiety levels especially with musicians with extensive formal training may actually diminish performance quality. For musicians with low mastery skills, the prudent approach would seem to be to undertake more formal training.” — Donald L. Hamann

“Here is the cure for stage fright. If you have strength of mind and a conscientious determination, you can walk onto the stage for a solo with almost the same certainty you have in practicing. There is the added and thrilling incentive now of an audience. By ignoring what you may fancy to be their opinion of you — which does not matter anyway — you have a new angle: giving emotional joy, spiritual nobility, or dramatic stimulation.With an honest artistic outlook, stage fright goes out the window. In its place you have the pleasure of adding something to he lives of your listeners.”               — Rowland W. Dunham

 

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Additional resources on stage fright and other anxiety issues:

 

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Finally, even though there is so much more to cover, a good “coda” on the subject of stress in music school might be to look at the article “Reality 101” by Gary C. Mortenson in the December 1991 issue of Music Educators Journal. Citing the University of Massachusetts student Erin Martin’s column “Real World 101: A Needed Course” in the October 1990 issue of U. — The National College Newspaper, college students could use help in areas not traditionally included in undergraduate curriculum:

  1. hurry-2119711_1920_TeroVesalainenJob placement
  2. Financial planning
  3. Raising a family
  4. Stress management

Mortenson creates several excellent “mock scenarios” fostering critical thinking and problem solving of teacher-student relationships, teacher-parent relationships, and criticism and stress that are issues in every teaching career.

“Life would be much easier if we could learn to handle real-world problems before we have to face them on our own.” — Erin Martin

“Teaching requires the ability to manage a variety of challenging situations. It is as complex and changeable as the society we live in. In college, future teachers assimilate a great deal of information that prepares them to share knowledge with their students. No one, however, can teach all of the skills needed to make complex decisions on all possible future real-life circumstances. These must ultimately be arrived at on an individual basis according to one’s own instincts and conscience. By giving more thought to how the problems and issues that confront students, parents, and colleagues will affect us, however, we can better equip ourselves to respond in an intelligent way to these challenges.” — Gary C. Mortenson

 

UPDATE (January 3, 2019):

Just after the release of this blog-post, the timely article “The Mindful Music Educator – Strategies for Reducing Stress and Increasing Well-being” by Dana Arbaugh Varona came out in the NAfME Music Educators Journal, Volume 5 Issue 2, 2018. (See https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0027432118804035.) You must be a member of NAfME to read the December 2018 issue in its entirety.

PKF

© 2018 and 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

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Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “stress” by TheDigitalArtist, “hustle and bustle” by geralt, “people” by tweetyspics, “anxiety” by Wokandapix, “woman” by Comfreak, “stress-2883638” by geralt, “stress-391657” by geralt, “woman” by Pexels, “lonely” by PoseMuse, “stress-22670” by geralt, “cello” by enbuscadelosdragones0, “trumpeter” by klimkin, “marching-band” by skeeze, “hug” by markzfilter, “hurry” by TeroVesalainen, and “laptop” by JESHOOTScom.

Is It Autumn?

Retirement… and the Seasons of Change

As I walk my two energetic dogs near our local school and park today, I noticed that the leaves are “holding on for dear life,” most have not fallen nor started their usual color transformations. This is Western Pennsylvania in mid-October. What is happening? What forces are disrupting our cycle of the seasons… from the normal spring re-awakening of our senses, to the heat and glory of summer, to the falling temperatures and brilliance of color in the autumn, just before everything shuts down for winter? Global warming? (Well, it was a balmy 75-degrees today!) Or, nature’s way of holding on to the past… and living every moment to its fullest?

Well, one thing is for sure. You can smell that change is in the air… and in our lives as we take on the great trek to retirement  – a process, like the unpredictable and evolving seasons, which can self-empower and lead us to creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive.

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If you stop to think about it, full-time retirement embraces many of the analogies we use for our changing seasons. If those early years of education, staff orientation and induction, job training, in-service programs, conferences, etc. stand for rapid growth and the budding months of spring, perhaps summer symbolizes our career accomplishments and professional journey towards harvesting our special skills, experiences, and interests in early fall. One may accurately depict the onset of a gloomy late autumn and stormy winter weather as our release from the employment routine, the sudden free-fall of retirement, retooling and coping with the emotional turmoil of momentous life-style changes, possibly even a short hibernation (rest, reflection, and a less frenzied schedule of activities), but eventually planting the seeds of new goals, habits, perspectives, and expectations… which leads us back to spring – the season of renewed hopes, revitalized rebirths, and new beginnings.

“Retirement is the last opportunity for individuals to reinvent themselves, let go of the past, and find peace and happiness within.” – Ernie J. Zelinski

Research suggests that, as wonderful as the retirement “voyage” is for some, many do not find it “clear sailing!” Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne wrote in his book Retiring Mind (Fairview Imprints, 2010), “50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.”

In the event your job was cut or downsized, or you were forced into “early retirement,” you may even be in the partial grips of post-traumatic stress disorder, or experiencing some of the stages of grief and loss (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief):

  • autumn-1Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Acceptance

At the very least, the passage to post-employment boils down to coping with a few of these very common emotional “bumps” along the way:

  • Loss of professional identity
  • Loss of goals, daily routine, and purposeful activity
  • Loss of social network and interaction with co-workers

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not our circumstances.” – Martha Washington

The good news? Yes, you can survive “Crossing the Rubicon” into retirement… and flourish while “living the dream” in your supposed “golden years.” Advice from gerontologists, psychologists, and other “experts” on aging include the following:
  • Prior to retiring, prepare for “life after work.” Cultivate interests outside the job, lead a healthier life-style, revitalize family relationships, and nurture friendships.
  • Stay engaged! Understand many “high achievers” never fully retire.
  • Take a break and self-reflect on trying new and fulfilling quests of work/life balance.
  • Find purposeful activities to do during your retirement.
  • Focusing on your talents and abilities, and set some new goals regarding how you want to spend your free time.
  • Because your brain’s reward center likes variety, give yourself an assortment of new or unique experiences.
  • Treat your first year of retirement as if you are interning.
  • Reprogram yourself to be less addicted to achievement (or linking your self-identity or self-worth to a job).
  • Limit your television viewing time (less than two hours a day!)
  • Plan some regular physical activity.
  • Revisit your creative roots and enjoy personal moments of “making music” – singing, dancing, playing instruments, composing, doing drama, writing, painting, sewing, woodworking, etc. – in short, CREATING SELF-EXPRESSION!

“If you were planning to spend the rest of your life in another country, you would want to learn as much about it as possible. You would read books about the climate, people, history, and architecture. You would talk to people who had lived there. You might even learn a bit of its language. Old age is like another country. You’ll enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go.” – F. Skinner and Margaret Vaughn in TIPS Retirement for Music Educators, MENC 1989

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If you ask the average retired music teacher, “Let’s get together for lunch. When are you free?” you’ll probably witness the retiree whipping out his smartphone to check his calendar app. Retirement does mean freedom, but it often also induces a very busy schedule of new commitments, perhaps even related “encore career pursuits” involving music and education such as student teacher supervision, private tutoring, coaching sectionals or small ensembles, assisting local music industry in organizing music tours/trips or delivering rental or repaired instruments, babysitting grand children or others, care-taking for an elderly loved one, etc.

“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” – John W. Raper

A lot of our retired members enjoy part-time positions in guest conducting, teaching or presenting at the college level, providing private lessons, serving in state MEAs or the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), or other consultant services like the special interest categories on the PMEA State Retired Resource Registry Index. Many of these jobs can be started before retirement, just expanded to fit your new-found flexibility of fewer conflicts or time constraints.

The best advice I can give to newbie retirees is to learn from your peers and the successes of others who have come before you. Read everything you can get your hands on from these online “gurus” of retirement:

Check out other articles at this blog (click on “Retirement Resources” at the right), and peruse my two blog-posts at Edutopia:

Finally, if you are a NAfME member and want to see a little of Atlantic City next spring, come to my session, “Living the Dream – Survival and Celebration of Retirement” at the 55th Biennial Eastern Division Conference April 5-8, 2017 (I believe I am presenting on Thursday.) Join us, retirees! It will be FUN!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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Post-Employment Prep – New Places to Go

Follow the Wonderful “Gold Brick Road” to More Retirement Resources

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This blog-site will continuously explore new/better research on and suggestions for a happy, healthy, and meaningful transition to retirement. This month, it seems we hit the mother-lobe of recent discoveries for this journey… four more for the road! (To catch-up reading all the blogs for retirees, click on the category link “Retirement Resources” at the right.)

Jean Potuchek

Probably one of the most insightful and expansive treasures of online articles on retirement is Stepping Into the Future – A Retirement Journal by Jean Potuchek, who defines herself as “a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching.” She succinctly states her purpose: “This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.”

enjoying-retirement-1358850-1Take a deep breath, find an easy chair, ignore your cell phone’s texts/calls, and plunge into her full website: https://stepintofuture.wordpress.com/category/retirement-transition/. Or, if you prefer, set aside 30 minutes and read a few of her individual posts (below). I have just begun to “crack this nut” – her blog-site is more extensive than anything else I have found!

choir-1438273As a music educator, this last title peaked my interest. We urge every retiree to revisit their creativity roots and seek renewed opportunities to enjoy music as a lifelong pursuit. (We have already posted reprints of several of my articles on this subject from PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, including Sing Your Heart Out, Now and in Retirement and It’s Time to “Dust off Your Chops” (join a community band/orchestra).

Potuchek relates her rationale for a quest in more spontaneity in her retired life and participating in a “creative aging singing workshop” sponsored by the Portland Public Library:

I am never going to be a totally spontaneous free spirit; it’s just not in my character. I like structure, and I don’t see myself giving up scheduling as a way to structure my days and weeks. But as I get weekly practice in spontaneity, I am learning to loosen up and be more flexible with my schedules. My first spontaneous jump into a new activity has brought the joys of choral singing back into my life, introduced me to some new friends, and helped me to recover long-forgotten skills (like reading music). Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For this old dog, retirement is proving to be a time of growth and learning. – Jean Potuchek

Top 55 Retirement Planning Websites

the-end-of-the-road-1207268-1Generally, I am not much in favor of perusing commercial websites on planning for retirement, especially those by investment counselors, but Ernie Zelinski (author of bestsellers like How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free) sent me this link: http://goldretiree.com/retirement-planning. Zelinski’s own “Retirement Cafe” (http://www.retirement-cafe.com/) is the second website listed, and seems to archive the foundations of much of his subsequent writings. Here is his “10 Dumbest Retirement Moves.”

  1. Purchasing a larger home than you need or than you can afford
  2. Watching a lot of TV — more than an hour and a half a day is excessive!
  3. Gambling
  4. Spending a lot of time shopping
  5. Complaining about life
  6. Being afraid to spend the kid’s inheritance
  7. Being a miser with your money
  8. Planning to work forever — something NOT advocated in The World’s Best Retirement Book.
  9. Neglecting your health by not indulging in vigorous physical exercise every day
  10. Not making new friendships and neglecting old friends

If you are concerned about your personal finances, investment, life styles, travel, or other issues in planning for your “golden years,” goldretiree.com may be valuable. Besides Zelinski’s site, I was taken with the following writers:

aarpThe final entry at goldretiree.com, AARP is worth mentioning here (http://www.aarp.org/). I was one of those 40-something spouses who automatically became a member when his wife turned 50 and she joined; I was neither ready nor expecting it. However, the AARP magazine and online materials are excellent, and span topics about travel, health care and coping with aging, finance, dining and cooking, etc. plus special discounts and benefits.

If you like, the entire listing of retirement websites is provided at this link: GoldRetiree.com

Stephen Price

In my last blog-post on retirement, “Three Exit Lanes to Retirement Self-Helhowtosurviveretirement_pricep Guides,” I briefly mentioned Stephen Price’s book “How to Survive Retirement: Reinventing Yourself for the Life You’ve Always Wanted.” No one resource has everything… but this book comes closest to covering the greatest variety of subjects, exploring such possibly mundane (?) topics of financial planning, making your home elder-friendly, and social security information, to riding the up-and-down emotions of “change” and retirement. The book’s table of contents is eclectic:

  1. Entering Retirement
  2. Discovering the New You
  3. The New Realities of Money
  4. Making a Move: Post-Retirement Relocating
  5. Do Unto Others: Opportunities to Volunteer
  6. Travel
  7. Encore Employment, or Returning to Work
  8. Planning for a Healthy Retirement

Volunteer Gardener

Of special merit, Price shares 14 pages of ideas on volunteering, with a gang of valuable websites on which to follow-up… everything from animal shelters, museums, zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups to business mentoring, foster grand-parenting, senior companions, and child advocates.

The last full chapter, written by Laurence Burd, MD, starts with a quote by the late PA Senator Arlen Specter: “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset,” and dives into the effects of aging and how to maintain good health throughout “our maturing years” (or second childhood?).  I have never seen a manual for retirees that goes into such detail on these issues:

  • Decline of Organ Performance and Function
  • Wrinkles and Dry Skin
  • Gray Hair
  • Balding
  • Hearing Loss
  • Decreased Vision
  • Dental Problems
  • Skeletal System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)medicine-1419753
  • Swelling of Ankles and Feet
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Urination Irregularities
  • Decreased Sex Drive
  • Memory Loss
  • Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and Anxiety

This is definitely a book worth buying, reading, and keeping!

Although a life of ease may have been your dream, retirement brings with it a host of questions, problems, and responsibilities that never occurred to you and may now seem insurmountable. How to Survive Retirement will help you plan for most any eventuality during the golden years. – Steven Price/back cover

Finally… The Ultimate Resource Guide/Bibliography

I tried to revise, assemble, and share in one place all of the retirement resources I have found. Click on this link to download the ultimate retiree resource guide 072216. You do not have to be a former music educator to use this reference list to gain a perspective on research and assistance to preparing and managing the life-changing adventure of retirement.

This document is my present to you. It cannot get much more comprehensive or convenient to find/use this collection of “sound advice” from advisors who themselves have successfully found happiness, good health, and real purpose in retirement life.

pmeaUpdates to my presentation “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement” for the PMEA Summer 2016 Conference are posted on the PMEA retired members website:  http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/. If you are music teacher retiree and taught or live in the state of Pennsylvania, we recommend joining PMEA to enjoy the numerous benefits of networking with fellow colleagues, reading publications, supporting music advocacy efforts, realizing ongoing professional and leadership development, and other programs. One advantage of being “senior citizens” is that our dues and conference registration fees are significantly reduced! For more information, please go to the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/.

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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

3 Exit Lanes to Self-Help Retirement Guides

For Transitioning to a Happy, Healthy, and Meaningful Retirement, These Books Should Be REQUIRED Reading!

3arrowsI submit there are basically three ways to learn something new by reading about it. One is the tutorial format, a.k.a. an instrument of “programmed learning.” Another approach is the comprehensive reference manual or user guide. Finally, many people prefer a narrative story, perhaps a fictitious account that features characters exploring and revealing insights on the topic you are studying.

Do you recall the first time you had to learn a complicated new computer application? After installing it to your computer and some initial nail-biting, you trotted down to the bookstore to purchase “something” to teach you Corel WordPerfect for DOS or Adobe Pagemaker for Mac (two historic examples that are no longer available today). Usually, you were greeted with a choice… a comprehensive user manual or a tutorial workbook!

I am applying this concept to three mini book reviews of preparation for retirement. All you have to do is select your favorite “learning style.”

ZelinskiIf you were looking for the reference manual, I recommend Ernie Zelinski’s How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (2016). The chapters are laid out by general concepts you need to understand. However, as in many user guides, you could turn to almost any page in the volume, jump around (in any order) to specific areas on which to focus, e.g. tips on travel (page 165)  to health/wellness (page 109), and not lose the overall meaning.

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free is one of the most easy-to-read and humorous publications on the market and best resources for a frank discussion of the emotional aspects of coping with retiree life-style changes/altered expectations, and finding creative new ways to self-reinvent and thrive. Quoted from the book’s Preface:

Retirement can be both exciting and demanding, bringing new challenges, new experiences, and new uncertainties. Regardless of how it turns out, retirement normally turns out far different from what people first envision. For some, it is a big disappointment. For others, it is merely a big annoyance. And still for others – much to their delight – retirement becomes an opportunity to live life like never before.

Here is Zelinski’s Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1: Thank Heaven for Retirement!
  • Chapter 2: Retirement – A Time to Become Much More Than You Have Ever Been
  • Chapter 3: So Many Worlds, So Much to Do!
  • Chapter 4: Take Special Care of Yourself – Because No One Else Will
  • Chapter 5: Learning Is for Life
  • Chapter 6: Your Wealth Is Where Your Friends Are
  • Chapter 7: Travel for Fun, Adventure, and More
  • Chapter 8: Relocate to Where Retirement Living Is Best
  • Chapter 9: Happiness Doesn’t Care How You Get There

Angled Open Book

The tutorial’s approach is a logical progression of chapters/how-to sections that must be read and completed in order. There are often worksheets, exercises, or activities to complete at the end of each chapter. The hierarchy of these “units” build a sequential set of competencies for which you must master one by one, a prerequisite before going on to the next section. Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (2016) is a perfect example of this method. Actually, it is based on her earlier work, The Artist’s Way (also a tutorial), plus 25 years of teaching artists to “unblock their creativity” using her tools “Morning Pages” (stream-of-consciousness writing) and “Artist Date” (reserved weekly block of time to nurture your creativity). Perhaps both editions should be consumed/and worked chapter by chapter.

In It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Cameron’s introduction sets the tone for her “lessons” on “defining and creating the life you want to have as you redefine and recreate yourself.”

In this book you will find the common problems facing the newly retired: too much time, lack of structure, a sense that our physical surroundings suddenly seem outdated, excitement about the future coupled with a palpable fear of the unknown. As a friend of mine worried recently, “All I do is work. When I stop working, will I do… nothing?”

The answer is no. You will not do “nothing.” You will do many things. You will be surprised and delighted by the well of inspiration that lies within you – a well that you alone can tap. You will discover you are not alone in your desires, and that there are creativity tools that can help you navigate the specific issues of retirement.

quiet-read-1496189The contents of It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again are divided into a weekly course of study:

  • Week One: Reigniting a Sense of Wonder
  • Week Two: Reigniting a Sense of Freedom
  • Week Three: Reigniting a Sense of Connection
  • Week Four: Reigniting a Sense of Purpose
  • Week Five: Reigniting a Sense of Honesty
  • Week Six: Reigniting a Sense of Humility
  • Week Seven: Reigniting a Sense of Resilience
  • Week Eight: Reigniting a Sense of Joy
  • Week Nine: Reigniting a Sense of Motion
  • Week Ten:: Reigniting a Sense of Vitality
  • Week Eleven: Reigniting a Sense of Adventure
  • Week Twelve: Reigniting a Sense of Faith

Finally, in the usual Ken Blanchard inspirational style of creating characters that act out a story, the book Refire! Don’t Retire (2015) sets the stage for an easy-to-understand narrative, specifically how to “make the rest of your life the best of your life.”

the-story-1243694The fictitious “Larry and Janice Sparks” share anecdotes of their experiences, modeling potential opportunities of retirees enhancing their relationships, stimulating their minds, revitalizing their bodies, growing spiritually… basically rekindling passion in every area of their lives.

Co-authors Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz relate their chance first meeting on a business trip:

“So what are you into and what’s new in your life,” was the beginning of our plane conversation. For the next fifteen minutes, we spoke with growing enthusiasm and animation. We talked about the things we were doing, and especially what we were excited about. When Morton mention he was working in the area of older adults and looking at aging from a new and different perspective, Ken piped up and said he’d been thinking about similar issues. The term he was using was “refire” – an attitude of embracing the years ahead with enthusiasm rather than apathy. At that moment, this book was born.

Their story, a “parable” on coming to grips with retirement, is organized in five sections:

  • The First Key: Refiring Emotionally
  • The Second Key: Refiring Intellectually
  • The Third Key: Refiring Physically
  • The Fourth Key: Refiring Spiritually
  • Putting It All Together

book-eyes-1251357You will notice that all three texts cover many of the same subjects, but are vastly different in methodology, style/design, and overall structure.

If you need additional ideas, I can also recommend these three fairly recent releases on retirement preparation:

  • Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP (2016)
  • Happy Retirement – The Psychology of Reinvention: A Practical Guide to Planning and Enjoying the Retirement You’ve Earned by Kenneth S. Shultz (2015)
  • How to Survive Retirement: Reinventing Yourself for the Life You’ve Always Wanted by Steven Price (2015)

With a focus on music educator retirees, all of my past articles are archived on this blog-post: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/retirement-resources/.

Finally, feel free to peruse the ultimate retiree resource guide rev 071416,  a handout for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Summer Conference session entitled “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement,” which was held pages-1426262at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania on July 11-13, 2016.

More critical than any instruction manual for using a computer program that will likely “come and go” over a short period of time, making sense of the “awesome” passage to retirement and finding satisfaction and meaning in your “golden years” are essential. These 5-star rated books provide excellent insight in facing this issue squarely, and taking steps to plan for your retirement. I recommend getting your hands on and browsing all of these resources.

To sum it up, I will echo Ernie Zelinski’s final thoughts:

The way I see it, you will have attained true freedom in this world when you can get up in the morning when you want to get up; go to sleep when you want to go to sleep; and in the interval, work and play at the things you want to work and play at – all at your own pace. The great news is that retirement allows you the opportunity to attain this freedom.

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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Retired from What?

concert-662851_1920Do music teachers ever retire? Not really!

The other night, I was attending a community foundation meeting for which I serve as trustee. One of the other members came up to me and made a little fun of the fact that he noticed I list my previous employment on the footer of my email.

I have to admit I was taken aback and a little embarrassed. I recalled that several months after I retired from public school teaching, I prepared some business cards to distribute at music education conferences and collegiate seminars which included the job titles I assumed when I was working full-time at Upper St. Clair. You have to admit it may be a little ironic. Why would a retiree use a business card to help broadcast his skills and experience for possible future employment opportunities… something no longer needed?

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Then it hit me. Most people retire and want nothing to do with the daily grind to which they were assigned during their career. Many want to forget everything and wash their hands of all memories of their former position(s) in sales, management, law, medicine, trades, manufacturing, service industry, etc. – perhaps, even non-arts related education!

Musicians and music teachers are definitely unique. Our job is really more of a “calling,” never just a place to go to work and earn a paycheck. We were inspired to make music and then share this fantastic process with our students and audiences. Our employment was never 9-to-5. And, all of the Performing Arts have no notion of a 9-to-5 goal…  “Hurry up, let’s finish learning this piece, play it, and then go to the bar and have a few drinks.”

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The mission of music education is to facilitate creative self-expression, to nurture understanding of ourselves, our culture, and our artistic heritage, and to seek out as many opportunities to “make music” in collaboration with other instrumentalists and vocalists. You have heard it before: “Music is lifelong learning!” That means there are no limits to lifelong participation in the arts based on race, color, religion, gender, sex, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, military status, and most importantly, age!

I know very few music education professionals who do not “bring home their music…” looking for more ways to experience it in their free time:

  1. Play, sing, act, or dance in a community ensemble
  2. Direct or accompany a church or community group
  3. street-musicians-1436714Practice and go out on a few gigs with your own jazz, rock, Barbershop, or chamber music group
  4. Teach private lessons
  5. Coach or compose for local marching bands, etc.

All of these activities become magnified when you retire. Once we are “set free” from the day-to-day academic schedule, lesson planning, faculty meetings, etc., we can focus our attention on what we really love to do. We are probably the luckiest professionals alive… we want to revisit our creative roots, not run away from them.

My previous experience (on my business card or e-mail footer) is relevant and I will no longer apologize for sharing it. I am not “stuck in the past,” but focused on the future! It means I am still active in the profession, available to mentor or help others in the field, always learning and growing, and exploring new directions and avenues to inspire my own artistry.

How many of you retirees agree that you are really just moving on to different pursuits in performance and/or music singer-1535103education? Of course, the best part of retirement is that you get to pick what you want to do every day for the rest of your life. So go ahead and say yes to those extra conducting gigs, writing/publishing your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” working with the church or community choir, accompanying a handful recitals, volunteering to help your favorite local marching band or civic theater, serving as an adjudicator for a music festival, supervising student teachers or teaching college music education methods classes, etc.

If you rearrange the letters, “retired” becomes “retried,” not “retread.” Yes, I embrace many of those other “re- words” meaning “growth,” such as redefining, retraining, re-targeting, re-tailoring, remaking, retooling, re-energizing, reflecting, and revitalizing, but not those negative or low-energy terms such as reverting, returning, regretting, retreating, recycling, refusing, regrouping, regressing, or retreading.

concert-1-1438833As long as I am alive, I will continue to inspire in others that music makes a difference!

Downsized… and Out!

Coping with the Unexpected Loss of a Music Teaching Job

Quotes from the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” directed by Stephen Herek

Vice Principal Wolters (William H. Macy): I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I’m forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.

Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss): Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.

Glenn Holland: I’m 60 years old, Gene. What are you going to do: write me a recommendation for the morgue?

* * *

Glenn Holland: It’s almost funny. I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it’s the only thing I want to do.

Glenn Holland: You work for 30 years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you’ve made a little error there, you’re expendable.

worried-man-against-white-free-photos-1430353On the subject of music teachers exiting the job market, one area we have not ventured into with these blogs on “retirement resources” is the most difficult to handle – having to face a forced resignation or involuntary leave.

Being laid off, especially from what was a long-term position, is very much like losing a close friend or relative. The loss is palpable.

No matter the reason… budget cuts, downsizing the program, position re-assignments, new administrative directives, or health problems, the feeling is inexplicable. Helplessness. Frustration. Resentment. Resignation.

According to Easter Becker-Smith, Leadership Development and Life Coaching at http://www.slideshare.net/coacheaster/the-emotions-of-losing-your-job-5597103, it is normal to go through four stages of grieving after losing your job:

  1. Denial
  2. despair-work-falure-computer-1494555Depression
  3. Anger
  4. Acceptance

Your past experiences in professional development, employment transfers, moving, coping with change, or understanding management or hiring practices, do not help a bit…  you are “kicked to the curb” and left speechless.

For the music educator and school employee, the scenarios of “getting the ax” are many:
  • Music is eliminated from the curriculum or the building in which you teach.
  • You feel you must retire (earlier than you want) to avoid losing existing medical benefits due to problems with ongoing negotiations of the new teachers’ contract.
  • You were last hired and several arts teachers are furloughed due to a budget crisis.
  • You voluntarily retire from the full-time job, but hope to continue as assistant marching band director (to complete your 30th year). Due to “politics” unrelated to you, a board member withdraws your name from the agenda and you never receive approval.
  • The new head coach of the sport in which you have assisted for ten years fires you to bring in his “cronies.”
  • With no warning, the school secretary (not the administrator himself) informs you that “your services are no longer required” in an extra-curricular assignment you have served for 25+ years.

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Just like any regular retirement, you instantly become an outsider and unknown, and lose your former “member of the team” standing (e.g. the ID badge no longer works to unlock doors or operate the photocopier, and you are asked to return your keys). It even seems you and your history have already been forgotten. Of course this hurts – we are all human. Even if we do not care to admit it, we seek approval and validation from our supervisors and peers alike, as well as appreciation from our “clients” (the parents and students we are charged to serve). We want to know that what we did made a difference, were appreciated, and would somehow serve as a model for future employees. And, most of the time, regardless of the length of time and the meritorious contributions you gave to the school district, you will not hear words of gratitude or thanks from your former boss!

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I hate the terms “twilight” or “golden” years (a possible subject of a future blog), but during this “life passage,” things are definitely “going away.” Against our will, we say goodbye to our day-to-day “life’s mission” – a career in school music education – as well as many of our associations with coworkers, that hectic 24/7 schedule and the constant busyness it generated (thank god), and a lot of those social engagements that were a part of our career development and staff camaraderie.

We need to refocus on the future and forget the past. Change happens. Do you recall that famous John Lennon line? “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans!” Or an appropriate saying for musicians: “Life itself is not a dress rehearsal.”

Suggestive readings on how to cope? First, I would peruse NOLO’s “Losing a Job: Ten Things You  Can Do to Make It Less Painful” http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/losing-job-ten-things-that-help-29761.html.

Check out Lifehacker’s “Nine Things You Should and Shouldn’t Do if You Lose Your Job” by Shannon Smith: http://lifehacker.com/nine-things-you-should-and-shouldnt-do-if-you-lose-you-509536697.

Keep an eye on the health effects that your sudden job loss may have on you: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm.

me-and-my-worried-thoughts-1475594Evaluate your response to stress since you were summarily eliminated from your district. It is worth reviewing the definition of PTSD and see if it should be applied to your behavior and the emotional upheaval you are feeling (from the online blog of the Dr. Oz Show at http://www.doctoroz.com/article/how-recognize-post-traumatic-stress-disorder):

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with people who deal with high-stress situations, such as emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police officers or soldiers. But every person has the potential to be struck by this debilitating anxiety disorder. The loss of a family member, severe injury, losing your job or your home – these are just some circumstances that put you at greater risk for PTSD.”

Another good website on the subject of PTSD is http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. However, PTSD is next to impossible to self-diagnose, so see your primary care physician or a therapist.

Finally, for music educators, I have written numerous articles (more to come) about the things you might consider to do with your newfound freedom… satisfying goals to fill and fulfill exciting new bucket lists:

To quote from the above Easter Becker-Smith resource:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics has never estimated the number of times people change careers in a lifetime, but they did examine the number of jobs the younger baby boomers held between the ages of 18 and 36. It was found to be an average of 9.6 jobs. Other reports show that the average person would have 5-7 career changes…

Remember that losing a job always brings emotions and you will need time to work through those feelings. Lastly, remember that your goal is to always move forward.”

Exactly! Move forward! There’s a great future just awaiting your embrace!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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Random Acts and Other Resolutions

One Music Teacher Retiree’s Reflections on New Year Resolutions

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.  – Oprah Winfrey

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Segment from the December 22, 2015 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Retired Member Network eNEWS. For additional articles and blogs on the transition to retirement, please click on “retirement resources” at the right, or visit the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

 

Ushering in the New Year is all about pursuing new directions or a sort of “rebirth,” making promises for self-improvements, and analyzing and revising our personal goals/visions… perhaps a little like the personal renaissance of retirement.

According to Wikipedia, the tradition of making resolutions is rooted in history, with many examples:

  • The Babylonians making promises to their gods at the start of each year “that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.”
  • rejoiceThe Romans giving tribute to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
  • The knights in the Medieval era taking the “peacock vow” at the end of Christmas season to “re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.”
  • At “watch night services,” many Christians preparing for the year by praying and making New Year’s resolutions.
  • During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur, reflecting upon “one’s wrongdoings over the year” and seeking and offering forgiveness.

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While success and happiness are in the eye of the beholder, many resolutions do not stand the light of several days… you’d be lucky to “stick with it” for more than several weeks! However, the process of revival – re-examining what is important in our lives, and placing effort in establishing new habits and plans – is just plain “good for you.”

Here are happy-new-year-1184943my top-ten recommendations to help you “grow” and enjoy a glorious 2016!

  1. Read at least one new book each month, in spite of our society’s fascination with media, the web, movies, TV, etc. Multi-millionaires are known to reach out for new ideas, innovations, and leading-edge thoughts from recent publication releases.
  2. Take time for regular physical exercise and to “smell the roses.” For me, the three or four daily sessions of walking my dogs are extremely helpful for gathering my thoughts, calming my nerves, re-charging my batteries, and even brainstorming via speaking to Siri on my Apple iPhone. For example, using the Evernote, a note-taking/sharing app on my cell phone, was the tool for creating this article’s outline. I can even do it hands-free while I am driving (very carefully!), and with my “all thumbs” keyboarding skills, it sure beats typing everything out by hand!
  3. If you are fortunate enough to have reading-with-grandmother-in-wheelchair-1432646grandchildren (your own or adopted ones), enjoy them! Not only is your generous super-competent babysitting services providing ever-so-essential care-taking of your love-ones, “playing with the kids” is wonderful for your own mood and mental health. “Keep around young people and you will stay forever young!” However, invest your time wisely. You deserve a life of your own and unstructured time off. It is easy to be taken advantage of, so don’t let this childcare schedule dominate everything you do in your retirement.
  4. If travel is your thing, get out there and “book it!” One of the great advantages of retirement is the capability to go on trips while the kids are still in school. One of my least favorite memories of a family vacation was going to Disney World over Christmas break… Overcrowding closed the Epcot parking lot by Noon on December 27, and my wife had to endure 45-minute lines to use the ladies’ room.
  5. If you really like being “out on the road” a lot, consider offering your services to local travel agents as a music trip manager. Many PMEA retirees have already assumed new part or (nearly) full-time jobs organizing music groups’ out-of-town adjudications, festivals, workshops, and tours. Really, who is better qualified?
  6. flute-player-1506263-1920x1440The single most satisfying pastime for all of us is to be or do something creative. With few exceptions, every day you need to find venue(s) to express yourself. This could mean pulling out your instrument or singing, with a renewed focus on exploring your musicianship, interpretation, composition, or improvisational skills. Creating new musical works, like adding to your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” can “make your day!” Other projects in creativity could involve conducting, acting, dancing, creating two or three-dimensional artworks, sewing, gardening, and my personal favorite, writing. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, articles, books, poems, letters-to-editors – the activity is very personal – and possibly profitable? Try to assemble in words your long-practiced insights and experiences acquired working as a teacher. I am particularly inspired by the prospects of creating and posting blogs on just about any subject that motivates or moves me. Check out the opportunities that WordPress.com can give you. (I am not too shy to refer you to my own website, showing off my articles and “pet peeves” on the subjects of creativity in education, marketing professionalism, and retirement resources: www.paulkusc.wordpress.com).
  7. At the very least, complete one new “random act of kindness” every week. Do the math! This would add 52 “good deeds” a year, and if every PMEA retired member adopted this resolution, that would total more than 22K caring moments in 2016.
  8. caring-teacher-1622554Every week for the rest of your life, spend some time “giving back!” Volunteer or share your hobbies, interests, or expertise helping out wherever it is most needed… in local churches, hospitals, charitable organizations, schools, pet sanctuaries, or senior care centers. I never understood why some enterprising entrepreneur does not buy a large piece of land to build a combined animal shelter, childcare center, and assisted-living facility, connected with easy access to each other… mutually beneficial opportunities for needy children, lonely seniors, and rescued pets for interaction with each other! That’s a “win-win-win!”
  9. Now that you have significantly more time on your hands than you ever had before, advocate for music education. It is not really up to somebody else to eloquently voice a thoughtful opinion about the essential need for music in the schools. Politics aside, writing to your congressman or senator is important, and who knows, might make a difference in proposing and passing upcoming legislation.
  10. r3_logoStay involved in PMEA. Help new or recently transferred music teachers by joining the PMEA Retiree Resource Registry, the free (but priceless!) adviser/ consultant service (go to http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/). This is one way to get more involved at the state or district level as a judge of adjudications, guest conductor or accompanist for festivals, guest presenter or member on a panel discussion for conferences, workshops, or webinars, etc.

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These are New Year’s resolutions I can live with, and hopefully fulfill. Time will tell! I recall the words of the classic Star Wars character Yoda: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

 

Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.- Michael Josephson, whatwillmatter.com

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PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Retirement = Reflection + Renewal + Altruism

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Attention all wordsmiths! Here’s a new word to add to your vocabulary: eleemosynary, an adjective that means generous, benevolent, charitable, gratuitous, or philanthropic.

Also, according to dictionary.com, the first definition of reflection is “the act of reflecting, as in casting back a light or heat, mirroring, or giving back or showing an image; the state of being reflected in this way.”

Assimilating both of these concepts, simply put, retirement is a time for both reflection and giving back.

on-green-1362995Do you remember as a kid lying down on your grass and looking up to the clouds imagining that you see animals or faces or Medieval dragons? Did you relax and let your thoughts wander to make up stories or scenarios to “play” in your mind? What new ideas or visions came to mind? This process of daydreaming or brainstorming can be the perfect vehicle for a little self-reflection, a calm moment to refresh your outlook, reconcile your feelings, review and revise personal goals, and basically re-energize your passions!

For once in your life, you don’t have to accept the demanding “hustle and bustle” of a very stressful workday schedule. Now you have more of life’s most precious commodity – TIME!

This new freedom gives you the chance to spend some time with your family, friends, acquaintances, even former coworkers when they have breaks. I hate to admit it that, as a full-time music teacher, I could not give you the names of my neighbors on my street, and now that I walk dogs daily, I have become much more “neighborly” and make every effort getting to know them.

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Of course, one of the most important directions you can go is to revisit your “creativity roots,” the reason you got involved in music and music education in the first place. One of your first priorities when you retire from full-time employment in music education should be to pull that instrument out of the closet, brush it off, warm up on it a little, and begin restarting your regime of training those chops (or vocal skills) once more. Go out and join a community band, orchestra, or choir (subject of a future blog).

Seize the day (as they say) and embrace opportunities for volunteering, possibly going back to the school and offering your professional services on a “very” part-time basis. Perhaps a local music program could use your expertise in setting up new technology, playing the piano, helping conduct large ensembles or coaching sectionals or chamber groups, organizing or chaperoning music trips, repairing instruments, composing or arranging music for the ensembles, or assisting on the rehearsals or designing the field show for the marching band, dance team, or drum line.

In addition, the “passage to retirement” allows a re-examination of ourselves and discovery of new interests, conceivably some non-music volunteer activities. Select a project or two that will help satisfy your need to help others and “wheelchair-1576246nurture your soul.” My personal favorite (besides retaining my “conductor chops” by directing a youth orchestra on Saturdays) is to serve as a volunteer escort at our local hospital. In addition to walking dogs several times a day, pushing wheelchairs several days a week is good physical exercise, but more importantly, it is a big help to the efficient and economical operation of any mid- to large-sized medical facility.

What’s that inspiring quote? “I thought I was poor because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” My wife and I get a lot of personal satisfaction helping people who are less fortunate than we are, especially those who are much more senior to us, and by now (after two years plus of retirement), I believe we are now nearly expert “wheelchair jockeys.” At the hospital, you meet many wonderful people, the majority of whom are undergoing a (hopefully temporary) life challenge… surgery, treatment, observation, rehabilitation, etc. It has to be said that we have found that “patients are the most patient,” and individuals with the most serious conditions are usually the most appreciative and display the sweetest dispositions. Of course, our favorite wheelchair trip is to the family birth center, where the majority of the time, we get to escort a mother with her new baby to the car.

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Other volunteer activities? Lists of needy programs are numerous (here are a few examples):
  • Walk dogs or care for pets at the local animal shelter
  • Serve in charitable fund-raising projects (man phones, etc.)
  • Offer to translate/interpret foreign languages
  • Assist food banks and meals-on-wheels agencies
  • Enlist as a “court appointed special advocate” for abused or neglected children
  • Work as a hospice volunteer
  • reading-with-grandmother-in-wheelchair-1432646Join Elder Helpers or other organizations to help needy seniors
  • Run a school club or activity (share your unique hobby)
  • Help maintain parks, trails, nature habitats, or recreation centers
  • Collate/file/sort/catalog libraries of sheet music or books
  • Host an international student
  • Become a youth director, mentor, or scout leader
  • Register new citizens to vote at citizenship ceremonies
  • Clean-up vacant lots, cemeteries, playgrounds, etc.
  • Apply office management and clerical skills to benefit nonprofit associations
  • Teach summer school or Fine/Performing Arts classes
  • Give guided tours or lectures as a “docent” at a local museum

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Check it out! Today, 3,281 volunteer opportunities in or near Pennsylvania were posted at: http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/?l=pennsylvania

Volunteer some of this new-found time that you have on your hands, and I promise, you will never regret it!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Are You Ready? Thoughts on Retirement for Music Teachers

Life and retirement are truly journeys… which means getting there is more meaningful than being there.

Now beginning my third year of retirement from the public schools, I can honestly make the statement… I LOVE IT! For me, I cry out HURRAY for the FREEDOM, and enthusiastically take on exploring raising puppies, home improvement, more personal music making, conducting, writing, photography, community service, and volunteer work. And, as you can imagine, my calendar is as full as it has ever been!

However, not all of our newly retired colleagues feel the same way… at least, not at first. It should be said that not everyone may be ready to retire. Often heard employment complaints aside, “be careful for what you wish!” In general, few are ambivalent about this transition… leaving the day-to-day highly pressured, detailed, “rat-race” most music teachers embrace to jumping into the wide-open horizons of new vision, focus, and directions. Recent retirees either love or hate this “passage.”

Examine your motives and your inner thoughts. Are you ready to retire?

Retirement should not be about “escaping from” something but “journeying to” something else. The type-A-ness in most of us, strong connections and identity to our work, music classes, ensembles, and programs, has to relinquish control over our 24-7 lives… allowing time to rest, reflect, re-energize, and make new goals. This means you rarely look back or live in the past; you look forward and plan new challenges!

Just as I made the decision to retire from teaching full-time strings/orchestras, serving as Performing Arts curriculum leader, and managing a hectic schedule of music and theater extracurricular activities, I wrote an article for PMEA News (the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association), citing the wisdom of many others on this topic. (See “Retirement! Now What? Tips for Retirees and Soon To Be Retirees” below from the Fall 2013 PMEA News.) You are invited to examine these areas of help and inspiration before you consider when and how to make this life-changing (but glorious) “metamorphosis!”

Also, for more resources, I encourage you to peruse the retired members’ section under “focus areas” of the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/

CLICK HERE for Retirement Article in PMEA News

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox