How did your interest in music begin?
My mom was always singing to us as kids. In fact, she still sings to the grandkids all of the time. So I have loved music ever since I can remember. Like a true music nerd, I always begged for music toys for Christmas—the “1984 crazy combo horn set” by Fisher Price was a total dream gift! Then, I got a flutophone for school in first grade and terrorized my family by playing it non-stop. Due to circumstances in my family, I couldn’t start piano lessons until 8th grade, but I loved lessons with my first teacher. I practiced so much that my siblings would literally sit on me when my parents weren’t home so that I couldn’t keep practicing. After two years, my first teacher helped me connect with Dr. Wirth who graciously accepted me as a student. I’m so grateful because I wouldn’t have been able to study music professionally had it not been for his expertise and generosity.
When did you discover your love of teaching?
It all started because I had to pay my own way through college. I was never able to give a testimony that I opened my mailbox, and “Shazam!” there was a check to pay for my entire semester. Instead, God always provided for my needs by giving me jobs. My on-campus employment as a freshman was working in the kitchen and bakery. The food service director at that time, Rick Muse, could tell many stories, but I’ll just say that after dropping a Sterno during supper and catching the carpet and my shoes on fire, smoking out the kitchen by getting cupcake wrappers stuck in a convection oven, having to clean the bakery for an entire Saturday after accidentally turning the fully loaded 10 gallon mixer on when it was set on the highest speed … and several more mishaps, I decided it was time to find a new job.
So, I went to White House of Music inquiring about a teaching job. After being told they didn’t have any openings, I went back every month until the manager finally offered me a teaching position. Before long, I had three full nights of teaching and absolutely loved my job. I learned so much with this hands-on learning experience, and I’m so glad to be part of an opportunity like this here at Maranatha Music Prep School.
Maranatha was a perfect choice for me because the music department faculty takes musicians where they are at and pushes them to their reach their fullest potential. I cannot possibly thank the music faculty enough for their personal investment in me—not only during my college years, but also throughout all of the years I have been teaching here. I have the deepest respect and gratitude for the current and former music faculty.
What are some things you learned as a music major?
Like most musicians, my relationship with music has been complicated. I could discuss so many things I have learned, but I will share a few:
Balance: As a freshman, I was probably one of the most imbalanced musicians. My friends kept inviting me on outings, but I always said I had to study, practice, or work. So, my friends planned an “intervention.” I’ll never forget that Friday night. After supper, my friends asked me if I wanted a ride back to the dorm to study. Of course I wasn’t going to refuse that with my strong dislike of cold weather. Next thing I knew, the car was squealing out of Maranatha’s main entrance. My friends, laughing hysterically, informed me they had locked up my books in storage before supper. We were on our way to Milwaukee. Of course I was totally freaking out at first, but this was the start of learning the importance of taking time to develop friendships and to have a little “down time” every now and then.
Challenges: I was lamenting to Dr. Ledge about one of my “music banes” during a lesson, and he told me that these struggles are often gifts because the process of struggling to learn something helps us be a better teacher. To this I said, “Well, at this rate, I think I will be one amazing teacher!” We both enjoyed a good laugh.
Burnout: Mindful practicing requires so much hard work and self-discipline that musicians often experience burnout, and I was no exception. One principle my parents encouraged me to follow is “never quit on a bad day.” But I went through a period of time when the bad days seemed to be endless, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to quit. After some evaluation, I realized that I had completely lost my connection with music. A change I implemented as a result was taking time every day to not just practice, but to both play a piece and listen to a piece that speaks to me on the deepest of levels. Doing so has really helped me stay connected with why I love music. Over the years, I have incorporated many other strategies for dealing with burnout, but that is a topic for another article.
Self-Talk: I was having a violin lesson with Betsy Pabon. After playing something for her, I spouted off a tirade of frustrations with myself. Because I had never verbalized these negative thoughts before, Betsy just looked at me in disbelief. She asked, “Janet Tschida, would you ever, EVER talk to another person the way you talk to yourself?” The answer was an obvious no. She then told me I was to only talk to myself in a way that I would talk to my students. This helped me a lot because I had a huge issue with controlling my negative self-talk/thoughts. Her advice reminds me of 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Comparisons: When studying with Dr. Wirth, I found myself playing at recitals with second-graders using pedal extenders to play Mozart concertos, and this was my first reality check. I quickly realized that there will always be people better and worse than me. This reality became even more apparent in college. Like many musicians, I have often struggled with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. But God has helped me understand that He gifts each of us uniquely for a special purpose. God does not ask me to be the best. Rather, He asks me to do my best—there is a big difference. I love the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. As one of my grad professors would say, “There is a reason for the saying, ‘ignorance is bliss.’” I am grateful that God has allowed me to be in a field that I love where I will never run out of new skills to learn and teach.
As Luther said, next to salvation, music is one of God’s greatest gifts. I love having the opportunity to be a part of sharing that gift with others.