TEACHER SPOTLIGHT:

SARAH BROWN

 
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What instrument do you play? How long have you been teaching?

I play the trumpet! I taught my first student eighteen years ago - my younger cousin. I was twelve, and I had been playing trumpet for about six months. I wanted someone else to play with me. After a week of practicing together every day, we put on a little concert for our grandparents. He played a song on his own first, and then we performed a snappy rendition of Hot Cross Buns as a duet. He never played the trumpet again, but it's a fond memory for the both of us. His cheeks would inflate like a pufferfish every time he played!


What would you say to someone who felt that music education or programs like ASW were not needed?

To be a music student, especially at Austin Soundwaves, is to belong. Every student who walks into our classroom is a vital part of the program - from the second that they learn how to sit correctly, until their final, spectacular performances in a full ensemble. There is an important role for every participant. Music programs teach students that they are needed, and expected to be their very best at all times. There are always times in our lives, from early childhood to old age, where we find ourselves feeling as though we don't matter, or we're invisible. When you're in an ensemble you always matter, because you are a part of something bigger, and it doesn't work unless all the parts are there. Finally, and most importantly, music is so much fun! You get to make beautiful sounds, and work as a team with people who you otherwise may never have spoken to.


What advice do you have for our students?

Always be kind. Be kind to others around you who may be struggling. Is the person next to you confused about which notes to play? Help them out! Is someone in the band having a tough time with another class? Remind them that they are great at music, point out the things they are good at, and help them to relate it back to their other classes. Math might be difficult - show them how well they can count, divide, and add up rhythms. Language arts? Point out all the musical terms that have learned and memorized. Before you can do this however, you should be kind to yourself. Sometimes music is hard, really hard. It takes so much patience, discipline, and energy, but your work will always be rewarded. Every time you give something your absolute best, be proud! What you are doing is unique, artistic, and very cool.


 
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Favorite part about teaching for Austin Soundwaves?

Sharing my passion for music with students is always my favorite part of teaching, but the thing I really love about Austin Soundwaves specifically is that I can build relationships with my fellow Teaching Artists. Everyone at Austin Soundwaves has a vastly different background, but we all have the same goal - to spread music to everyone. Sometimes I feel defeated - a student might be having a very difficult time with something and it can feel like I've exhausted all avenues trying help them out. I feel as though it is safe for me to talk to my colleagues, and admit that I'm not sure what I should do next. There's no judgement, only understanding and support. It makes a world of difference to my teaching. They are also all outstanding musicians! Hearing them perform is an uplifting reminder that we teach music, because we love playing music.


How do you feel when you play music?

Playing music feels like an extra boost of caffeine, it gives me energy! It doesn't matter what else has happened in my day - when I walk into a rehearsal or a performance, all that matters is the music. I don't want to be too romantic about it, there are still times when I feel stressed about the way I'm playing, or if I'm not practicing enough. The reason I keep working hard is the knowledge that I am part of a team that needs me to try my very best every time I pick up my instrument.


If you could thank Austin Soundwaves for something, what would it be?

I am so grateful to Austin Soundwaves for allowing me the opportunity to learn, and grow as a person. Teaching at Austin Soundwaves is so different to my other teaching experiences. I've taught in many established music programs where every student, parent, and teacher already knew exactly what was expected of them for every minute of every day. At ASW, our goal is to get music education started in places where there has never been a music program, so we need to build these expectations ourselves from the ground up. I have had to learn to be creative, resilient, and understanding. I still have to check myself sometimes. For example, when a parent didn't come to their child's first performance - I was heartbroken, but I never actually explained to them how special a student's first performance is. It's not just a late night school pickup, it's their opportunity to share how far they've come! I've learned that a music program can have an impact way beyond the 50 minutes of class we have together every day. The student brings this strange noisy device home one day, and now everyone in the household hears them practice and improve daily. All of a sudden they have new friends through music. Parents and guardians get to meet other families at performances, and learn more about music themselves. Concerts start to become big events with families sitting and talking together long after the music is finished. It isn't easy, but I am so thankful that I can witness the impact music can have on bringing a community closer together.