All little kids do it. They dream about being doctors. They dream about being basketball players. They dream about being ballerinas. The point is there is no doubt in their mind that they can achieve that dream. And to be honest. That’s a beautiful mindset.
We’ve all had ideas and dreams about what we want to be when we grow up. We start thinking about the colleges we should go to for that profession. We obsess over it. Learning more about it throughout our high school years. We may conversate with others who are already in that profession. The point is we have that idea of who we will be when we grow up.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. Like the one’s you hear on the radio as you make your daily commute to work. The one’s traveling the world and sharing their stories, on stage. The ones making great money and living great lives. I truly wanted to be a rockstar.
See music has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up with my parents was awesome. They were kind. They were talented. They were my role models. They were musicians. Both of my parents were also teachers. I basically grew up in a school. My mom talks about having me rolling around on the stage as they practiced for their fall musical. I am grateful for those experiences on stage. I am grateful for the love of music they both passed on to me. I am grateful for the lessons they taught me. They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
As I got closer to graduation people would ask if I was going to be a teacher. If I was going to follow in the footsteps of my parents. It wasn’t that I hated their job, it just wasn’t my dream. I told people that teaching was not in the cards for me and that I would be pursuing a degree in commercial music. People were confused by the term. Their first thought was always that I wanted to make music or play music for commercials. I guess that’s why I started describing it as “learning to be a rockstar”. I told them of the aspirations I had to travel the world and sing.
I went to Millikin University and got that commercial music degree. Meeting awesome people along the way and learning tons of cool stuff! Fast forward to 2012. I had moved back to Iowa to pursue an opportunity working at the golf course that I grew up on. I know. Weird transition. It wasn’t that I had given up on music. I more so had set backs on believing that I could make it in the profession. Being a full-time musician is hard. I knew that going in, but when bills need to be paid. It gets harder. I was still playing music, but I had lost a little of the fire that I had as a kid. The golf gig was ok. At best. I mean, in Iowa you can only golf outside for half the year. The rest of the year my job would be as a bartender. I didn’t like it. I didn’t put effort in and eventually I left the job.
Moving back home helped me meet new people that were my mom’s colleagues at school. See, she had been working at the same school for 25+ years. That’s a LONG TIME! One of those colleagues was “Augie”. I honestly don’t remember how we first met, but we got along swimmingly. He mentioned that there was an opening as a study hall monitor at my alma mater. He was the middle school science teacher and high school basketball coach. I had thoughts about coaching and thought that getting in at the school level with any job would be ideal in that pursuit.
I interviewed for the position of study hall monitor and waited. I got a call back a couple days later from the superintendent. He said that I interviewed well and had a proposition. He asked if I had interest in being the librarian for the high school. I was in. I didn’t care how I got in. I just wanted in. Needless to say 24 hours past and he called back. The plan had changed and he wondered if I wanted to be a paraprofessional. I’ll be honest. I had NO idea what that was, but I said yes. I soon found out that it would shape so much of my life.
After getting married in the summer of 2013, Christine and I were moving to Texas. We wanted to get out of the cold and start our journey. She already had a job as a voice teacher at a local high school. I also had an interview at Westlake Academy. I had NEVER been to Texas before the move. The only real recollection I have of it, is when I was a young boy. When watching the weather, I was always amazed how hot it was there… ALL THE TIME!
I remember driving up to Westlake like it was yesterday. I thought I had stumbled across a ski lodge in Texas. The buildings were beautiful. I was nervous because making the move and leaving my coaching and paraprofessional job in Iowa was hard. As a planner and worrier, not having a job in place made me extremely anxious. I talked to the front office about our wedding in Hawaii and the fact we had just moved to Texas. Like two days prior. I was interviewing for a JH girls basketball coach position and a possible full time paraprofessional position. I felt at home instantly.
I was hired shortly after and started my job. I enjoyed the staff and the curriculum at this IB school. One thing did jump out to me though. There was no music above 6th grade. That was wild to me. Music was always an option for me and this school was at minimum 5 times further ahead then where I graduated. What was the deal? Why no music? I started thinking about an idea. After talking with a colleague, I decided to propose this idea to the principal. The idea: I’ll teach a music class to high school students. Crazy. I know. One of the few times in my life where I just went for it… They said yes.
I finished my 7th year at Westlake this past spring. Time flies when you’re having fun. As I prepare to go back for year 8 a lot of things have changed. I am a full time performing arts teacher at Westlake. I teach 6th grade music and 8-10th grade theatre. You might be thinking, ” But you said there was no way that you would teach?”. That’s the thing about life. Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect it.
I think back at the crazy interview for the study hall monitor position. I think about the 2 years of being a paraprofessional. I think about proposing a new class at a school I just started at. I think about how much I love my job. I get to share my love for music with all types of kids. Kids that have been around music a bunch and others who are brand new to it. That gives me life. That gives me purpose. I love being able to share music knowledge with them. I love getting to work on music with them and watch them perform. I love directing our school musicals and plays. I love seeing the fire in their eyes about the arts. That same fire that I’ve had for my entire life. There were times that it was dim, but it’s always been there.
I get to work with the best kids at the best school. I get to be involved in music and theatre. I also coach! How cool is that? I am helping kids fall in love with music. At least I hope I am. I am sharing what I know and connecting them with other “rockstars” in the performing arts industry. And the best part is it’s so much fun!
There are days that I am worn down. There are days that I spend too many hours at school to ensure that our next performance is as good as it can possibly be. I do it for the kids. They are my colleagues in a way. I don’t want to let them down.
That’s the whole point I think. Finding something that you can pour your passion into. Something that you wake up happy to do. Something that brings you joy. Something that pushes you to be a better version of your self. Find that career. No matter the field. FIND IT! Make sure you are working every day to enjoy it. Enjoy the ride that is life. Enjoy the struggle. Enjoy the great days. Whatever you do give it 10 times the effort you think you can give and in return you will find your joy. You will be a rockstar.
And you know what? I am a rockstar. Not the one I originally planned, but one that’s much more fulfilling.