In episode 38, Kathryn and Theresa talked to Dr. Tom FitzStephens, a high school music teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. Tom’s teaching assignment includes chorus, AP music theory, and guitar classes. He has a master’s degree in choral conducting and a PhD in music education. Tom considered himself a relatively traditional choral teacher until he started working towards his PhD. Learning about different styles and philosophies of music education expanded his view of what it could be. Teaching for amateurism can help students see how music will benefit their lives beyond participating in the school ensemble.
“If I can get 30 students in my guitar class to be excited about their instrument, to be excited about music, and to be able to make it in the way they want to, I think they’re going to connect with it for a lifetime. That’s going to improve their mental health, their physical health, connect them to other people, and make the world a better place.“
In this interview, Tom talks to us about why it’s important to think about the amateurs in our music programs and other ideas including:
- His own experiences being an amateur musician
- How guitar class can provide opportunities for more students to be involved in school music
- Incorporating ukuleles in chorus classes
- Friday Mini-Concerts
- Building community in the music room and creating a safe space for all students
Tom emphasizes that students still have the high-quality chorus experience many are looking for, but he also provides opportunities for students who have other musical interests.
“One of the core elements of amateurism is doing music for the love of it, and if they can develop that relationship with music, then they will make music after they graduate.”
You can learn more about Tom’s work here:
- “Amateurism in Music Education (1967-2019)” by Tom FitzStephens
- “Why do Adults Sing? The Impact of the High School Experience” by Thomas Ryan FitzStephens
Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast app or here, on Anchor!