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Emily Nelissen, John Louie Menorca

How Teaching Music To High Schoolers Helped Me Grow as a Person

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Usually my fall seasons are full of music, metronomes and eager band students. This comes with being a percussion instructor for a high school marching band. 

This year was the first year since 2016 that I did not teach high schoolers, and I recently had a previous student reach out to me and express how much I helped them grow as a musician and as a person. Obviously, this made me an emotional mess because not only was it incredibly sweet, but it also helped me truly realize how much of an impact I made on the students. To me, I was just doing my job, and honestly, I hesitate to even call it a job because I loved doing it so much. If anything, I felt like the students and the whole experience in general made me grow into a better person.

Working with high school students is rather self-reflective and intensive because it is so unpredictable and it requires teachers to be so highly involved. I felt I always had to be on my “A” game so that the students would feel both movitated to learn and have fun. After all, at the end of the day, marching band is meant to be an activity in which the students collectively work together to succeed and to have fun. 

The students’ genuine joy for the sport was infectious. Even though I was in marching band in high school and therefore understood what they were going through, there was something magical about watching the students’ passion play out (pun intended) in front of me. People always say that you should do what makes you happy, but I truly understood that when watching them perform. I need to find something in life that gives me that same sort of pure joy. Witnessing their joy on the field encouraged me to explore some of my smaller passions.

I also feel like teaching has made me incredibly patient and creative. The students all ranged in maturity, skill level and willingness for effort. Many students have not yet grown into themselves and are still trying to maneuver this established and disciplined environment. Some have a lot of energy and displace it haphazardly, while others are too nervous to engage and need to break out of their shell. Of course, there are also incredibly talented students who are hugely helpful amongst their peers. 

Never have I thought of any of that as bad. I just knew that everyone needed to develop, and I had to do my part in figuring out how to support them through that process. I approached every situation and everyone differently, but I learned that I always need to have patience and an open mind. Each student’s background varied, and I wanted to be sensitive to that. This experience expanded my world view, and I now try to look at situations in life with a broader perspective.

As a whole, I feel like teaching made me a more motivated person. I was always in a position where I needed to make others feel excited and hyped up about rehearsing or performing. A lot of what I would tell them stemmed from being inspired by the students’ sincere love for playing music. It was sort of a reciprocal relationship. I learned a lot from them and from the job. It was an experience that I will always cherish because the pride I have for the students continues to live in my heart.

Emily is a UCLA graduate with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Musicology. She is a huge skincare enthusiast as well as a fashion and makeup lover who likes to experiment with her style. When she has some free time, she can be found obsessing over music and musicians, painting or going outside to enjoy the sun.
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