What aspect of the education community do you find to be the most valuable?
Matt Jefferson: One of the most influential aspects is social circles. Who you are as an educator and a person is a direct result of the people with whom you spend most of your time. If you spend most of your time chatting with old friends about what you went through in high school band, you’re far more likely to teach in that same way. If you spend most of your time researching new teaching strategies in online forums, that is likely to have a big impact on how you teach.
How does music education utilize a sense of community differently from other fields?
MJ: Music is so intrinsically connected with a sense of self, emotion, and ego that it can be hard to look at music education objectively. If someone is afraid to branch out and try something new, it can be extra challenging to take feedback and criticism without an emotional reaction.
But with the resources that we now have available, schools and education centers that can objectively challenge the limits of what they traditionally offer can do really great things. The schools that don’t do this will have a tough time staying relevant in today’s society.
How does the music educator’s community best benefit its members?
MJ: Personal interaction is key. That is why you see so many people hiring colleagues, friends, and musicians who they already know well. I think most people are more comfortable with discussing ideas and concepts with people they know and trust, rather than with someone who may have a better “reputation.”
What are the most common ways that people in your field connect?
MJ: Social media, without question. However, the funny thing about it is how differently people use it. You see everything from people partying with friends to playing gigs at church. New sub-communities will emerge from all this interaction and people with similar interests will be able to connect in new ways. Social media functions like a form of marketing. People are advertising themselves constantly, both intentionally and unintentionally, and we have yet to see how far this use of technology can take us.
How have you personally used social media this way?
MJ: Who I am as a person, musician, and educator has evolved from who I was in 2004, when Facebook was introduced. Back then, I was graduating high school and about to become a music major at the University of North Texas. The things I valued were staying in touch with old friends and posting pictures that presented an image of me as much more awesome than I actually felt.
Now, the technology is infinitely more sophisticated and is primed to give you the type of content that you tend to access the most. If you look up old pictures of your partying days, that is what Facebook will show you in your Newsfeed. But educators who understand the amazing capabilities social media offers will have a massive head start on connecting with a larger community in very productive ways.