Michael Farkas said his experience at Calahan Street Elementary School in Northridge last semester was unforgettable. He volunteered to teach fundamental concepts of music to a group of children. He introduced them to various wind and string instruments and showed them how music can become an important part of their lives.
Farkas, a music studies major at CSUN, said teaching at K-12 levels is exciting and rewarding. As the president of the student chapter of the National Association for Music Educators at CSUN, Farkas said music students hoping to graduate in the field should join the group because it offers them a myriad of opportunities to develop methods of teaching music to children.
The local MENC chapter provides contacts through workshops, community events and industry meetings with professionals for college students interested in teaching music to kindergarten to high school students.
“Our main goal is to provide a network for students so they interact with teachers,” said Farkas, who was elected to his post last semester. “We interact with them and exchange ideas.”
MENC exists to prepare students to become teachers, he said, and was formerly called the Music Educators National Conference.
The organization holds sessions at least once a month. CSUN professors and professionals from the music industry, music teachers from other schools and others involved in playing, writing and recording music are invited to the workshops. Lecturers brainstorm ideas with future teachers that can be passed onto their students, who then forward them to their pupils which generate excitement, interest and curiosity.
The topics discussed in the MENC workshops include how to increase children’s music awareness, how to develop teaching techniques, psychological approaches to teaching music in environments where music is not a common subject and how to read and analyze music specifically chosen for children.
Jasmin Castellanos, a CSUN music education graduate, said the quality and capacity of the professors who attend the MENC lectures is beyond question. They offer tips on how to motivate, understand and perceive children’s behavior regarding music.
“I think the MENC workshops are very beneficial to us,” said Castellanos, who is currently enrolled in a program to earn her credentials as a K-12 teacher. “We want to become music teachers. Through MENC we have had the opportunity to know lots of music professionals as guest speakers that otherwise we would have never known.”
John Magnussen, professor of percussion at CSUN, said he has participated twice in MENC workshops and that his students were attentive and took notes.
“I’m not a direct MENC member, but I’ve been invited to speak about children’s motivational skills and music analyzing,” he said.
Magnussen said he understands the goal of the organization. Some students who attended his workshops have now graduated, and have begun teaching careers in local elementary schools, he said.
MENC is a 100-year-old national teachers organization founded in 1907.
As a general rule, MENC asks its members to develop teaching guidelines based on the National Standards for Music Education, which should include singing, playing instruments, music improvising, composing and evaluating. Guidelines should also include listening and analyzing, reading and writing music as it relates to other subjects, and music as it relates to history and culture.
“At CSUN, everyone reacts different to the MENC lectures,” said Farkas, who plans to teach high school students during the spring and middle school pupils during the Fall 2008 semester. “But most people get great benefit from attending them.”
There are currently between 60 and 80 registered MENC members. The workshops take place once or twice a month. The first workshop was held Sept., 6 at noon in the music department. It drew about 17 students.
“All students on campus are welcomed to attend our meetings and workshops,” Farkas said. “It’s just that they have to know music concepts deeper to understand what the organization is about.”
Other events MENC members can attend are regional and national music conferences, such as the Sept., 8 conference for music educators that was held in Anaheim. The Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association offered networking opportunities and workshops at the Crowne Plaza Resort Hotel.
Dr. Lawrence Stoffel, bands director from the CSUN music department also participated. Stoffel is also MENC’s advisor.
“It takes about five years for students to really find their grooves,” Farkas said. “We try to give them as many tools as we can to find their groove sooner.”
Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Head to The Gripevine.