Beyond the Classroom: Music Education Major Mike Massaro Directs Two Local High School Bands

stock image of a trumpet player against a red background

Meet Mike Massaro, a recent Music Education graduate and commuter from Swedesboro, NJ (Gloucester County). He had the great opportunity to take his musical skills outside of the classroom and was able to direct the jazz band and marching band at a local high school. He tells us more about his experience and his passion for music education.

Four years ago, every single person I knew was telling me, “All of the opportunities and resources are there, you just have to choose to use them.” Genuinely, it probably took me until my 7th semester to truly understand what that meant. However, I had been surfing the opportunities of Rowan University since the first day I stepped on the campus.

Music Education is considered a double major at RU — music and education. Because of this, my program involves being a student of both the College of Performing Arts and College of Education (two degrees, two commencement ceremonies, etc).

The most amazing aspect of this has been being able to learn from and collaborate with my student colleagues and the incomparable faculty from both colleges. Being around other people who want to see you learn is what truly can put your college education to the next level.

I’m going to be very real here: more than likely, you will graduate. You will get the paper. At the end of the day, many will earn that paper, but the paper isn’t what matters in the end. It’s the education that went INTO the paper. What can YOU do to make what is very likely to be your most enriching 4+ years of education as educational as possible for YOU?

As an educator, my belief on this is very firm and was inspired by one of our CPA adjunct professors, Mr. Gerry DeLoach. The passion for what it is that you are teaching is what will drive you forward as an educator. Your knowledge and ability in your specific subject or field is what makes you tick. It is so important to keep that flare to learn alive. What you do in your field sets your ability for what you can do as a teacher. How tall will you let that ceiling be?

Mike Massaro playing trumpet with a high school band on the bleachers.

Here’s a short story. I was offered a very rare opportunity to direct a marching band and jazz band at a local school, Woodstown High School, while still completing my undergrad. By my sophomore year I was directing the jazz band, and junior year I was directing the marching band. It was a dream come true come early — teaching real students.

The program showed success very quickly. One of my beliefs when it comes to teaching is that the best way to learn how to teach is to teach. I wanted to do as much as I could for this school’s music program. It seemed like every day I was at Rowan, speaking to my professors about teaching strategies, learning more about music, and sharing and listening to stories; then in the evening, I would go put it all into practice when I taught for real. One of my biggest focuses through my undergrad was on making this program grow, because I knew that the more I was able to learn as a musician and a teacher, the more I would be able to teach these students. I think it is very important as a teacher to learn from your students, as they can teach us far more than we can teach them. I certainly learned so much from them.

Rowan let me learn from these students.

If it wasn’t for the education that I received every day, the conversations and performing experiences that I had, I would have never had anything fresh to offer my students. I’ve had professors come out to Woodstown on their own time to give clinics to the bands and watch me teach. What the faculty has to offer is truly unmatched. Rowan is a growing school that still has a small school feel where it matters the most — in the classroom.

The professors here care for you and want to watch YOU learn. We don’t have massive educational lectures. We have conversations about the real world and how you can make it better. In my teaching, I can directly categorize aspects of individual professors that have molded so many aspects of my musicianship and teaching.

Mike Massaro sitting with a trumpet

Thanks for making it to the bottom of my text blob. I have one more blurb. My trumpet professor, Dr. Bryan Appleby-Wineberg, once said, “You can’t change the whole world at once, but you can start by changing your corner of it.” Dr. AW’s belief about education is one that should resonate with all of us. Educators are at the center of any community. The educators teach the students, the students graduate, the students get jobs, contribute to our workforce, grow the economy — the students become the doctors, entertainers, designers, chefs, researchers who allow our community to grow. It all starts at the educator.

The educators are the students. The students are the educators. Be the best one you can be and take the opportunity. We are profs. Eruditio spes mundi — education, hope of the world.

If I knew my last time riding back from the student center on my skateboard holding my box of hot pulled pork with a piece of cornbread and a cup of red Gatorade would be my last time, I probably would have done it again. Remember that when you get nervous, it’s because you care.

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