After earning both undergrad and graduate degrees in music education and working as a substitute teacher, long-term sub, student teacher, and full-time music educator, I came to the realization, for numerous reasons, that teaching elementary music was not the right career for me. I was then faced with the task of making the experience and training I possessed relevant to my current life situation.
It is interesting that I happened to change careers from music education to a job in the travel industry. A number of graduate students in Boston Conservatory at Berklee's music education program are people who come from various careers, with the common realization that what they really would like to do is teach music. While I went in the opposite direction, there is evidence of my background in my current work. My company organizes trips to South America for student groups, so I often find myself talking to teachers and arranging itineraries within an educational setting.
Sometimes it is difficult to avoid dwelling on the past. It is difficult not to feel regretful that what I had originally planned to do with my life, something I had devoted so much time, money, and work to, ultimately didn’t land me where I wanted. On the other hand, I am finding peace with the chaos of my mid-twenties and also realizing that it is impossible to imagine alternative scenarios or to pick and choose which aspects of my past I would change. For example, although I am not currently teaching full-time, several connections grew out of my master’s program that largely contribute to my musical identity and fulfillment today.
While I was in school, the Conservatory NAfME chapter organized several events and workshops. For one event, we met at Tufts University and played a Javanese gamelan (traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali) with Barry Drummond. At this point, I started to realize my interest in the field of ethnomusicology and talked to Barry about how I could learn more about gamelan. He invited me to come to rehearsals of Boston Village Gamelan, and soon I was attending rehearsals regularly. Most of what I learned about Javanese gamelan was through exposure: just sitting in on rehearsals, playing along, and trying to adjust my ears to the different tuning. Although, I never got used to sitting cross-legged for such long periods of time (now I have much more empathy for elementary school students)! Through Boston Village Gamelan rehearsals, I met a professor of ethnomusicology at Salem State, who encouraged me to attend the Northeast Society of Ethnomusicology conference that year and sparked my engagement in the ethno community.
At another Conservatory NAfME workshop, Jeremy Cohen, a teaching artist and percussionist who regularly travels to Ghana, shared the basics of Gahu drumming in the Ewe tradition. I had a blast drumming and was eager to continue. After the workshop, Jeremy told us about the trips he leads to Ghana every year. I didn’t have the time or money for the trip at the moment, but I ended up traveling to Ghana through Jeremy’s organization, ThisWorldMusic, in July 2014.
I loved studying traditional Ewe drumming and dancing at the Dagbe Cultural Center. I was also able to meet amazing people: Ghanaians, fellow Americans, and other travelers. This experience left me with a desire to keep playing this music, which I have tried to do as best I can back in the U.S. I am still friends with people from this trip, and some of us meet occasionally to take West African dance classes. I was also able to attend some informal rehearsals with the Agbekor Society at Tufts, where I found out that the executive producer of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and Car Talk also studied Ewe drumming at Dagbe and led rehearsals.