retirement transition

Making It Work: Transitioning into Retirement

Making It Work:
Transitioning into Retirement

As musicians and music educators, we are aware of many types of transitions in the music we perform and teach. There are sudden sforzandos and gradual crescendos; grand pauses and slow moving ritardandos. We have transitions in our classrooms between activities, and transitions to get students on stage and to the instruments during a performance.

There are also many transitions in our lives. My first major transformation in my professional life came in my third year of teaching. I was introduced to the Orff process and I knew then that this where my career was meant to go.

My mentor, who introduced the Orff Schulwerk to me, retired when I had 10 years or so under my belt. I was working on my levels courses and attending local and national conferences putting these ideals into action. She had purchased an entire instrumentarium when the school district refused to foot the bill. (Since then, each elementary building has a basic instrumentarium thanks to my co-worker’s efforts.) When she retired, she gave me all of her instruments, along with the carts she had purchased.  This led to me think about what I would do when I retire. Could I ever truly give up teaching music? It got me thinking about how I would transition into this new phase of my life even though it was still a ways down the road.

After 30+ years of working in the public schools, I did retire, and I am in the process of living my dream of transition. My dream was to run a private Orff studio and work with children and adults. After my mentor’s retirement, I continued to acquire more instruments. When I retired I took those instruments with me and partnered with a local non-profit, Crescendo Academy of Music. I have an incredible studio space, which is a former dance studio. My rent is based on the students I bring in. And the only condition of this agreement was that I work with a music therapist, and the choral director for the local RESA’s special needs choir.

The Community Voices is an ensemble offering musical experiences for teens and adults with a variety of mental and physical challenges. Our 25-voice choir participates in singing, playing instruments and movement. The Orff approach is a perfect match for our members. We meet once a week for an hour and we put on a program every 12 to 16 weeks. The variety of activities meets the needs of our students. Movement works well for those who love to dance and feel the music in their whole body, instruments provide an outlet for our non-verbal members and we have some amazing individual voices.

The choir is a type of transition for many of our members. We have a gentleman who started coming and would sit in his chair with hands on his walker and never looked up. When we began preparing for our Christmas performance, a certain song lit a spark and he has been singing his heart out ever since, he even had a solo this year! We perform at the auditorium in our facility and have taken the group on the road to sing for charity events, art hops, and other community functions.

What are some of the other aspects of my transition to retirement?

I am a Music Teaching Artist for our county’s Education for the Arts Aesthetic Education program, modeled after the Lincoln Center program. This job allows me to stay in touch with the schools and teach with classrooms of different age levels, from kindergarten through high school. I work not only with the students, but with their teachers as well.

I have begun working for Music Is Elementary in their vender booth at several state and national conferences. This job allows me to stay in touch with music educators, their needs and their challenges.

I am a clinician for hire. I lead workshops on a variety of topics, including movement, curriculum, and process.

I play my clarinet in our community band—Kalamazoo Concert Band. This is my music, just for me!

And lastly, I learned how to knit. I am an official yarn hoarder and I love trying new techniques with my knitting.

As I’m writing all this down, I’m thinking that perhaps I haven’t really retired. I’ve just transitioned to a position where I can choose to teach what I love most. And I’m able to set up my own schedule so that my husband and I can travel when we wish.

Retirement and the Schulwerk. What a great combination!

These activities have helped Marcia in her transition to retirement. Please share your own plans and experiences in the comments below. Your thoughts may be just the thing to help another music educator “Make It Work” during their career transition!


Working in the booth at the 2016 AOSA Professional Development Conference


Marcia Working

Marcia Working has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Central Michigan University, elementary self-contained classroom certification from Western Michigan University; and received her Orff certification from Anderson University. She has a Master’s in Education degree from Cornerstone University. She has 30+ years’ experience teaching elementary music before her retirement in 2013. Ms. Working is the director/instructor for the Crescendo Academy of Music Orff Studio in Kalamazoo, MI. She is a Music Teaching Artist for the Aesthetic Education Program in Kalamazoo County. She writes and arranges children’s music, plays clarinet, is an active clinician, presenting workshops in Michigan as well as at the national level.

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  1. Beth Iafigliola on February 15, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you for posting your transitions in life and using musical vocabulary to describe the passing of time. Loved it!

  2. Katie Jones on February 15, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences, Marcia! It was a pleasure to meet you at Missouri Music Educator’s this year. My students are loving the pop tube ideas!

    • Marcia Working on February 16, 2017 at 9:23 am

      So glad you’re having fun with the pop toobs. Please share any new things you and your students come up with.

  3. Lyla Folkins on February 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I have watched dear friends retire FROM something and not TO something. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, those friends who retired TO something are LIVING their retirement. Marcia, thanks for sharing ALL your “TO SOMETHINGS!!!”

  4. Marcia Working on February 15, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    One thing I forgot to mention in my article. The instruments I was gifted with by my mentor teacher are 41 years old. They still sound great, and yes, they are Studio 49 xylophones and glockenspiels.

  5. Margi Zearley on February 18, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you for this timely article. I am about to retire and am wondering, thinking, planning about “my life after”! I love those ideas!

  6. Paul Kay on February 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this info about your transition. I am actually going through this process and it was helpful to hear your story. I sure would love to know more about how you set up your studio and music programs you’ve involved yourself with in the community. I have a ton of questions. Hopefully, I can bounce some ideas off you. Paul

    • Marcia Working on June 4, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Paul,
      I’m only a few years behind in my replies to my Teaching with Orff article. Let me know if you’d still like to bounce off some ideas. Marcia

  7. Beverly Ropp on February 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you Marcia for sharing with us. I love your article and appreciate all the many times you have mentored me and passed on your musical inspiration.

  8. Sandra L Clay on February 19, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    My husband and I retired from full time teaching in the Midwest and moved to a rural part of the beautiful Oregon Coast. A tiny school was having trouble finding a music teacher. They hadn’t had one for 5 or 6 years. The superintendent called me several times over the summer asking me to consider a position. I felt so sad the kids weren’t getting any music that I accepted. I am so glad I did. I only do K6 two afternoons a week for about 80 kids total, and it is perfect for my stage in life. People in the community are so pleased the kids are getting music. Everyone is delighted to come to the programs. The superintendent is super supportive and has made it possible for us to have a complete range of beautiful Sonor Orff instruments, recorders, as well as the GamePlan music series and a beautiful Clavinova. The students are mostly lower/middle income and I feel so privileged to be able to give them experiences they would otherwise never get. But I can’t do this forever…I would dearly LOVE to see another (younger) teacher come in and build on what has been started. The school is actually K-12, but I was only up for K-6, so there is room for upper level classes. Any prospects out there? Oregon is a gorgeous progressive state, and the people are lovely. If you are curious, email me at

  9. Tom P. on February 20, 2017 at 5:10 am

    Thank your for sharing your testimony! Your work is very thoughtful and inspiring. I love the fact that your are still actively contributing to the community, particularly people with special needs.

  10. Chris Solomon on February 20, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    What a delightful article! Thank you for sharing! I’m a few years from retirement and found encouragement reading it! =) Congratulations on keeping on keeping on!!

  11. Joanne Cahill on February 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Lyla, I love your comments about retiring TO something. As I think about approaching those transition years I will keep that thought!

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