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From Public to Private
Posted on August 26, 2018 
“If students take more courses in these areas and also have engagement [in the arts] outside of school, they tend to do better,” said Peggy Carr, the Associate Commissioner for Assessment for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
I couldn't have said it better myself. When I was in school, I lived for music class. It was my absolute favorite class because we got to sing, play instruments, and have such a great time with the entire class. My teachers were always amazing and it was honestly just a fantastic outlet to have during the school day. When I was in third grade, I was officially old enough to be a part of the musicals. That meant MORE MUSIC. Yes indeed, I was all about that, and couldn’t get enough. I took piano lessons outside of school too, and joined my synagogue choir. I felt good when I was immersed in music. Most people do.

Music and kids; I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. Something, anything, where I would be working with music and kids. I thought about becoming a cantor and leading a synagogue Hebrew school and teen group. I almost pursued that, but then I thought, why not be a choir teacher? I’d get to choose between elementary, middle and high school students, so I’d have my preference of who to work with, and I’d get to make music all day, every day! So I went for that.

I loved the Music Education Program at the University of Central Florida and when I transferred to the University of South Florida, I loved the Music Eduction Program there too. All those observation hours and amazing classes taught me how to be a music teacher and had me completely set on becoming a middle school choir teacher; where I would have choirs throughout the day, keyboarding classes, choirs after school, concerts, musical theatre shows, and competitions. It sounded great. Then I did my internship. My final semester in college, the very last component to my degree, and I experienced the school system. My world came crashing down. I didn’t like it!!!!!  
I interned at a middle school and an elementary school. Don’t get me wrong, I had an enormously satisfying experience working with the choirs and the keyboarding classes, and the competitions and concerts, but being in the school system was challenging. Kids would have to miss classes at least twice a month for assemblies, exams, fire drills, lockdown drills, teacher work days, holidays, so many reasons! It doesn’t seem like much if you have the same class every day, but in elementary school, you only get music class once a week, for 45 minutes. That’s it. That meant some classes were always ahead of others, and they all still had to take the same assessments whether they had the proper amount of teaching time or not. Some classes wouldn’t even show up for their allotted music class time, other classes would constantly come late, and teachers would be late picking up their classes which meant the next class got less time. Many substitutes wouldn’t even know to bring or pick up their class. Middle school classes were a little less chaotic because chorus is an elective (for most grades), but there were many cases where students would only sign up for chorus or keyboarding to get an easy A and socialize with their friends. Constantly having to stop class for those disruptions really puts a damper on the overall experience of choir for everyone, and it really dampers my mood, too!

Working with kids and music was my dream. 
Being a part of the public school system was not. To make it even more difficult, a whole new level of micromanagement came in for teachers. Income and job security would be based on how well students passed state exams. What?! If I had students who just didn’t pay attention or didn’t really want to be in music class, or just weren’t good at tests, my pay and job were now dependent on them. Not cool. Not cool at all. Lesson plans had to follow certain criteria which was fine, but many of the standards for music were so rudimentary, it felt like I had to alter and water down my teaching to fit a unformed methodology to be acceptable. Guess what, kids aren’t uniform! Kids learn in so many different ways, and teachers need to have a little wiggle room to make the learning experience fun and engaging.

The amount of hours was another ordeal because I had a son (just one at the time) and wanted to be involved in his life. I thought that being a teacher would be perfect for family life, but it turns out between the lesson planning, after school hours, car-rider duty, enrichment hours, parent/teacher conferences, and rehearsals, there wasn’t much time left. Charter schools and private schools required even more commitment than the public school system, so that wasn’t a feasible option for my life preferences either. And the drama. SO MUCH TEACHER DRAMA. One teacher likes this teacher, another doesn’t. Pettiness across administration. I couldn’t believe it. And the parents! Listen, I’m a parent too, but there are some parents that take rudeness to a whole new level of crazy when it comes to their kids. It was such a mix of emotions all over the place that I just didn’t expect and wasn’t ready for.
Another problem is that many counties are doing away with music programs altogether, or experience severe budget cuts. The budget cuts mean that if a school wants a choir and a band, they have to look for one teacher to do both. So even though my Music Education Degree is focused on vocal instruction, I would have to teach band or orchestra as well, even if I don’t know how to play an instrument! Or vice versa too; an instrumentalist would have to teach the choirs in addition to band or orchestra. That’s so much for one person to take on. I have friends in these positions and I commend them for it. It’s unfathomable to me how they make it work and don’t burn themselves out in the process.

Within weeks, I knew I didn’t want to teach middle school as I had originally planned. Within months, I knew I didn’t want to enter the school system at all. At the end of my internship, my professor asked me where I wanted to teach and I told her with brutal honesty, “not in the school system.” She didn’t exactly know how to handle my response since I put all this work into my future career and suddenly didn’t want to do it anyone. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. I reassured her that I did still want to work with kids and music, just in a different setting.

All the while, I had been teaching voice and piano privately on the side. I had never even thought about teaching privately until my Vocal Pedagogy class in college at UCF, with Dr. Jeremy Hunt. How I loved that class. We were required to find a friend, or anyone really, and give them ten private lessons. A fellow Music Ed Major on the instrumental side let me work with her, and it was so amazing. She and I both really enjoyed our lessons together, and after that I started working for local music schools that offered private music instruction. Then, instead of going to those music schools and using their space, I put a piano in a room in my own home and started teaching from there! I was doing it; I was working with kids and music, and even adults and music! And I loved it.

When we moved to New York, I continued to teach privately out of my home, but I didn’t have enough students to meet our cost of living. I needed another job. I found Education Through Music (ETM), which is an extraordinary company that outsources music teachers to New York schools. I wouldn’t be going in under the Department of Education, but I would be teaching in a school as an independent contractor though ETM. I didn’t necessarily want to work in a school setting again, but my family needed me to and it was an amazing opportunity. ETM provided all the teacher training and resources I could ever need, want, or imagine, and I had mentors to help me all along the way.
I took the job and was placed as an elementary school music teacher working three days a week at a public school in the Bronx. I taught kindergarten through third grade, seeing each class one time for 45 minutes. The staff was super friendly and I made quite a few teacher friends, but there was still a lot of drama and scheduling conflicts in the school, just as I had remembered it in Florida. Only this time, it was way more intense. I didn’t have a classroom or an office. I had a corner of the backstage of the auditorium. To make printouts, or laminate materials, or take care of any teaching supplies I needed, I had to go to ETM's office in Manhattan on my day off, do it all there, bring it home, and then bring it with me on the subway the next morning for my classes. I bought a rolling cart to put my posters, materials, and instruments, and I literally rolled from classroom to classroom to teach my classes. I made do with an iPod and a bluetooth speaker, and we’d move the desks out of the way. There also wasn’t an elevator in the school, so I had to schlep my rolling cart up and down three flights of stairs, zig-zagging from classroom to classroom. By the way, I was pregnant. I didn’t realize I was pregnant when I initially accepted the job, but low and behold, I was.
After I had my baby, I never went back to that school. We had already lined up a teacher who would take over for me, and everything was planned accordingly for a smooth transition, but I never went back because it was too far from my home (an hour and a half via subway) and I had a newborn baby now. All my posters and supplies are actually still there. 

For the following school year, Education Through Music had another school for me to work at that was closer to home, but it was five days a week. That was too much for me with a newborn baby, and the cost of daycare would literally eat my paycheck and still be hungry. It didn’t make sense. So my husband Wil and I decided to go full force with private teaching. We opened Planet e Studios officially, and my dear husband went to work with his magical marketing skills, filling my studio.

A move to Florida and a year and a half later, Planet e Studios has two full in-home studios, two instructors, and we’re on the lookout to hire teachers for voice, piano, and guitar so that we can accommodate even more of the community.

With Planet e Studios, I get to work with music and people of all ages, on my own schedule, while staying at home with my baby and being there for my older son too. I don’t have to worry about fire drills or assemblies, or missed classes and assessments. I have make-up days for my students and performance opportunities for them as well, and the pressure is gone. I can literally have fun and create music with my students. It’s exactly what I wanted to do. And now, we’re expanding that dream to other teachers who want to spend their days (or evenings) in music, working with a multitude of ages and personalities, while having the flexibility of their own schedule and teaching strategies. It’s perfect.
Let me be clear; I beyond 100% support music and art programs in schools, and I think every school should be required to offer quality music and art education. I also 100% support all music teachers that do this for a living, day in and day out. Their patience truly can’t be matched. For me though, I found what I wanted to do and I’m loving every day of it. I love being able to delve into each student, one-on-one, and help them flourish and polish their incredible talents. I love being able to completely be myself in lessons. I love being able to be with my family simultaneously. It’s all my loves wrapped up in a fantastic entrepreneurship that my husband and I have created together. I’m lucky to have found what works for me, and if you are looking to flourish or polish your talents, give us a call because we are more than eager and excited to work with you.
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By Emily Feinberg-Hosier
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The Jeanie/Stephen Auditions originated in December, 1951 to encourage promising young Florida vocal students. It takes place at the Stephen Foster State Fold Culture Center in White Springs, Florida in conjunction with National Stephen Foster Day.
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