My name is Jesse and I am a music teacher with a background in creative approaches. I’ve chosen three of Costa’s Habits of Mind to summarize myself as a teacher and also my approach to learning. Hopefully these will paint an accurate portrait of what it might be like to study with me.

Firstly, is the Habit of Listening With Understanding and Empathy. Costa writes that “[s]ome psychologists believe that the ability to listen to another person—to empathize with and to understand that person’s point of view—is one of the highest forms of intelligent behavior.”

I would agree with this, but I would also argue that empathetic listening is especially fundamental to learning how to play music, both in an ensemble and solo setting. Whether you’re listening (or watching) a conductors cues, hearing and interpreting a drummer’s time feel or, finding a way to fit in with a chordal instrument player’s improvised harmonic structure, or trying to interpret a composer’s musical intentions (even if that composer is yourself!) you’ll certainly be exercising your ability to deeply and viscerally understand what your senses are pulling in, particularly in relationship to others.

Next, the Habit of Creating, Imagining and Innovating. Costa stresses the importances of looking at particular problems from many different perspectives. This is certainly applicable to music. Sometimes we don’t know how to make each other sound good, and the answer isn’t so obvious. Maybe there is something in an orchestration which is causing certain voices to clash. Maybe two people aren’t feeling the rhythmic structure in the same way. Or perhaps someone’s instrument is out of tune. Perhaps there’s a mistake hiding in the score. In any case, the ability to examine situations from all sides is crucial to excellence in music.

Costa also emphasizes that creative thinking involves being able to handle criticism. This leads me to my next Habit of Mind — Taking Responsible Risks. I think that a healthy willingness to embrace the possibility of being wrong is certainly bound up with the ability to solve problems. If we only allow ourselves to find solutions that already lie within our comfort zone, then we’d likely be unintentionally acting as the barriers to our own success .

Some of my most valued lifelong teachers have told me, “if you want to play improvised music well, you have to be prepared to sound bad.” I’ve taken this to essentially mean “not all ideas work so well as well as we think that they will from the outset, but in order to find the good ideas, a certain amount of trial-and-error may be necessary.” This guidance has only rung more true the older I’ve grown and the more experience I’ve gained.

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August 29, 2022 3:54 pm

Im very fascinated by the thought of “Using Habits of Mind to Play Music Better” because it truly is fascinating to use psychological processing to move that into music making it much more significant.

A sentence you wrote for me that intrigued me was when you said “you’ll certainly be exercising your ability to deeply and viscerally what your senses are pulling in.” I think this shows alot on how deep the thought of the psychological element in music can go

Im interested to see how far this can go and what future things can be shown about this in music.

July 18, 2022 1:39 pm

Dear Jesse:

I am intrigued by your bio, “Using Habits of Mind to Play Music Better,” because it is fascinating to discover how transferrable and portable the 16 practices are across disciplines and to learn more about how you see them connected within music education. 

One line that stands out for me is, “Empathetic listening is especially fundamental to learning how to play music, both in an ensemble and solo setting.” I found this really interesting because I never learned how to play an instrument or participated in a band so my experience with empathetic listening is through conversation with others. However, this statement ignited a change in my thinking about empathetic listening with oneself. After you mentioned the role of listening within a solo setting, I realized that the habit of listening with understanding and empathy can be a practice that people can engage in independently through creation—music, writing, art, movement, etc. These forms of expression support us while we listen to ourselves and grow deeper in understanding who we are. Thank you for offering another way to look at this habit. 

Another line that stands out for me is, “To find good ideas, a certain amount of trial-and-error may be necessary.” These words struck me because you identify an important universal truth. This statement reminded me of a design thinking activity that my third graders do each year during our Force and Motion unit. They are challenged to use magnets to build a prototype to solve a real-world problem. The students begin with a lot of excitement but tend to have fluctuating emotions as they realize their initial ideas do not solve the problem immediately. It is certainly an activity that nurtures “try, try again.” Later, as we dive into reflection and begin to tap into the importance of persistence through those “trial and errors,” students begin to share pieces of what you suggested: that these first iterations lead to much stronger ideas. It is exciting to see how our learners can blend these lifelong lessons with their academic and content learning.

Have you read “Music Creativity is in the DNA of SEL?” I discovered it on the National Association for Music Education’s website. Like you, the co-authors argue that the nurturing of essential life skills, such as the Habits of Mind, is incredibly impactful in the music classroom. A part of the article that made me think of your bio was: “When SEL practices are folded into creative music-making projects, students (and teachers) can become highly motivated to dive deeper into self-reflective and engaging music-making experiences.” It was evident from your bio that reflection is key to what you offer your students in order to help them grow as musicians and individuals!

Thanks for your bio. I look forward to hearing more from you about music education and the power it has for our learners!


Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Allison

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