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!