Four years ago, while I sat in my hotel room in the Union Theological Seminary in New York — things happen when you’re forced to break a lease due to bedbugs, okay? — and worked on an early childhood music education paper, I got an IM from fellow graduate student, Nick Jaworski*.
*I know, the title says ‘I’ even though there’s really a ‘we’ behind Leading Notes. I can only speak for myself here!
Our conversation moved quickly to a Google Doc, where we outlined our thoughts and vision for Leading Notes, a new music education site that would serve as a central hub for longform content and offer teachers an opportunity to share their visions, ideas, and successes.
We contacted teachers we knew and asked them to write about the state of music education, our fingers crossed the whole while that we could actually pull this off.
Online Music Education Connections
I remember 2010 and 2011 as banner years in the online music education professional learning networks. Teachers blogged frequently, shared links on Twitter, developed online communities and sites, ventured onto the Google+ platform and evaluated whether it could fit their needs. Social media and blogging were bringing us closer together, even though many of us had never met before.
Our situations, needs, and struggles were universal; a teacher from New Zealand could readily offer viable answers to a pre-service music education major from Canada within seconds. The opportunities for growth and learning seemed infinite.
Leading Notes Enters the Scene
Leading Notes launched in 2011 and, in its first incarnation, enjoyed two years of progressive music education content and great web traffic…
… And then the real world struck and Nick and I were no longer able to balance personal and professional demands with the site’s upkeep. The site’s issue format, which saw us publishing 10-18 articles twice yearly, was difficult to maintain.
Above all, though, the site was a labor of love. Nick and I found we couldn’t continue to pour in the time when we needed to focus on what kept us employed.
Three Years Later
When I returned to the music education field earlier in 2014, once I’d made the transition to teaching private music as a larger portion of my income, I had a hard time finding the content and conversations I’d loved years prior.
The Music Teachers Facebook group, a resource I’ve used myself, is certainly active and the #musedchat hashtag still sees consistent use on Twitter. These are valuable social media resources for music education that serve the community.
However, I still believe in the importance of longform content, both for the author and the reader. While we were preparing for the site’s relaunch, I wrote in Leading Notes‘ submission page,
The writing process is an under-appreciated tool for professional development. We can learn and develop a better understanding of ourselves as music educators through reflecting on accomplishments, mistakes, and ways to improve during the next lesson or unit.
By sharing your ideas with others, you open yourself up to discussions with other music educators, constructive criticism, and positive feedback on your thoughts. Reading different perspectives can improve your understanding of what you do or provide a different approach.
As I tried to sort through my own thoughts here on my blog, it became clearer to me that there was still a need for a centralized space. I love writing on my own site, but sometimes it feels like I’m writing in my own little bubble, without input for anyone.
Where are we going with Leading Notes?
Nick and I relaunched the site on August 6, 2014, three and a half years after that first conversation in 2010, with the following objectives in mind:
- To move away from the issue format that was difficult to manage, choosing instead to publish regularly every week.
- To support teachers’ work by helping them promote their articles, plans, successes, and stories on our website.
- To improve the site’s sustainability by actively looking for sponsorships from music and music education companies who believe in the same things that we do.
- To help teachers develop, share, and learn from one another online.
Most importantly, our mission remains the same: to create and manage a site that serves as a central hub for content and offers teachers an opportunity to share their visions, ideas, and successes in music education.
I look forward to seeing what 2015 and onward will bring for the music education online community.