Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.
Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. I never actually experienced a school band myself, but ever since my oldest child went into beginner bands in fifth grade, I have been in awe of school band directors, especially beginner band directors. I’ll never forget the contrast between that very first concert of the year for our daughter and the last concert of that first year of band. I was really struck by the magic that this band director was able to work in a large group of students with very diverse backgrounds and abilities. Most of them had no background in reading music or playing a musical instrument. The teacher, who has minimal amount of time with these students each week and virtually no control over whether any of the assigned practicing happens at home. I’ve always been fully aware of the fact that I have a huge advantage as a private piano teacher who is hired by parents to teach their child one on one. I get at least 30 minutes of one on one time with students each week, and their parents are paying good money for me to teach their child. So I feel like that gives me some assurance that practice is probably going to happen at home between lessons and even in that situation. Really, the student practice time can be a challenge, so I’ve always marveled at what beginner band directors are able to accomplish. The other fact that’s always front and center in my mind and awe inspiring to me is the directors really are are front line music workers.
Mindy Peterson: [00:01:47] Band directors are very often the only music teachers that many kids will ever have access to, and without them, many of our country’s kids would have no musical experience. I have one of these shapers of young lives with me today to give us a peek behind the curtain of life as a middle school band teacher and tell us more about a day in the life of these teachers and what we may not realize about their vocation. Veronica Toney’s has been teaching for 12 years and is in her ninth year with the Davis Joint Unified School District in California. She is currently teaching fifth and sixth grade band at two elementary schools, as well as the band classes at the local junior high. Veronica has a master’s in music education. Her main instrument is the flute, but I’m told she can play us a good hot cross buns and anything else that we hand her. Veronica is one of four co-hosts of the podcast Amused, and that spelled capital a capital m lowercase U.S., as an end news for music and then capital e d so amused. Kind of like Amuse Ed if you can visualize that, and it’s for music teachers discussing current issues in music education. They offer resources, tips and tricks, and catalog their growth and missteps made as young teachers. Welcome to enhance life with music, Veronica.
Veronica Tonus: [00:03:22] Thank you. It’s so great to be here. And I didn’t know. I didn’t know your story about your kids going through band, and that’s so heartwarming. I’m listening to you going, Oh oh, yay.
Mindy Peterson: [00:03:32] Oh yeah, I mean, I went to a small private school and piano was always my jam, so that was my main instrument. I did take violin lessons for a short period of time in high school private lessons, but never experience that traditional band, an orchestra in a school. And so when my kids experience band, that was really my first experience to vicariously through them and it was it was a blast just getting to experience it through them and really inspiring.
Veronica Tonus: [00:04:05] Yeah, I mean, it is music, but it is a completely different world, you know?
Mindy Peterson: [00:04:08] Yeah, yeah. So tell us how you decided to become a band teacher and do you see common themes in what draws band directors to go into this vocation?
Veronica Tonus: [00:04:20] Sure. So I became a music teacher, mostly because I have always found myself in teacher type roles. Even as a child, I was always a leader wanting to help others. Helping explain things in class when other kids didn’t get things. And I loved learning new things. I also was a very musical child. I took piano lessons from a very young age, and then I joined the school band in fifth grade and went all the way through high school. My high school had a marching band. We also had an orchestra and a choir. And by the time I graduated high school, I had eight years worth of fine arts credits for a four year high school because I just found that it was it was where I was happy and it was something that helped me balance the stresses of the more heavily academic classes. And when I was trying to figure out like, Where do I fit? What do I want to do? Well, I enjoy teaching. That’s definitely a career I can go through. And hey, this music thing is pretty cool. Why don’t I put the two of them together and be a music teacher so I can create more of these circumstances and communities and safe spaces where other kids can feel like I did? So for me, it wasn’t necessarily like music itself is the greatest thing and must be taught everywhere.
Veronica Tonus: [00:05:41] For me, it was I want to be a part of bringing these kids along and helping them grow up through the world of music like that’s going to be my avenue in order to reach kids and help them feel safe, feel balanced and kind of learn who they are. Learn, learn about their own brand of weird, I like to call it. As for other music teachers, I found that a lot of them have that same sort of connection and feeling with their with their band experiences or orchestra or choir experiences where it was a place for them to express a place for them to feel safe. And honestly, I was in a department chair meeting with some of my colleagues at my junior high school this week who teach English and math and history and whatnot. And our inclusive opener was what was your favorite class in school and why was it your favorite? And all of them, every single person’s answer was not about the subject. It was about the connection that they felt with the teacher and the way that they, the teacher, the educator, made them feel successful and made them feel worthwhile and worth learning and feel uplifted. And I think that’s a huge part of why a lot of music teachers end up going into music is because they feel that in their own experiences,
Mindy Peterson: [00:06:58] It sounds like there’s a real. Passion for teaching and for reaching kids and affecting and impacting kids lives and music is a conduit for that, just as some other teachers of other subjects can find those other subjects to be a conduit. Average yeah.
Veronica Tonus: [00:07:14] And I I am very lucky that in my line of work, if I start a student in fifth grade and they happen to then move on to the same junior high school that I teach at, I will actually get to teach that student for five years if they stay in music like from fifth through ninth grade. That is a huge developmental time and I love watching these kids grow up and getting to know them and just seeing them become like, come into the humanness that they will then continue to be as they grow up.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:41] Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve never been in a district that’s had music teachers teaching that wide of a spectrum of kids. It’s been more we have the elementary music teachers and then we have the junior high music teachers and then we have the high school music teachers. But I’ve heard that from other music teachers who do kind of spread themselves out across multiple age group school classrooms that it is really an incredible opportunity to be a part of the same kids lives for a period of years, which is it really is incredible. Well, my daughter was considering a career in teaching when she was younger and she did a job shadow when she was in 10th grade with a teacher and the teacher gave her some really wise advice. I thought, she said. Being a teacher is a calling and it’s a service, and if you are called to teach, do it, it’s going to be the most fulfilling job you can ever imagine. If you’re not called to do it, don’t do it.
Veronica Tonus: [00:08:44] Yeah, absolutely.
Mindy Peterson: [00:08:45] I thought that was great. I’m curious to hear your input on that. If you agree with that, that being a band teacher is a calling. And again, if you see common themes and what motivates the teachers to do the work that they do.
Veronica Tonus: [00:08:58] Yes, I absolutely believe it’s something that you have to be in wholeheartedly. You can’t just treat it like a job. I mean, there are certain boundaries you should set for yourself, of course, because it is a job. It is not. It is not an entire life, right? But it I agree with that so much, mostly because I’ve seen so many people who maybe thought that they wanted to do music education like they had the same idea. Like, I really enjoyed my experience. Therefore, I think this is what I want to do. But the actual teaching portion of it wasn’t something that they fell to naturally, or it just maybe it just didn’t quite click and they didn’t have a great experience. And the teacher like the burnout in the first five years in any subject, but very much in music. The burnout in the first five years will really make or break your career. You know, it’s like you will know in the first five years whether or not you were really meant to do this. And that’s part of the reason why our podcast got together is because we felt so isolated. Music teachers are often, you know, the junior high music teacher. You know, you’re the only one on campus or you’re the only one in the district or for a series of schools. And there’s no camaraderie, there’s no connection. And that’s the same. That’s true for a lot of young teachers. They’ll stay in their room at lunch, they’ll be just overwhelmed and finding that connection with other teachers. Sharing your wins, sharing your mistakes, we found we meaning myself and other music teachers. I know we found really, really important in our own growth and our own endurance and resilience as young teachers until we really got our feet under us.
Mindy Peterson: [00:10:46] That’s interesting that you say that you can feel isolated in that role, and there’s not maybe that same connection or camaraderie with teachers of other subjects.
Veronica Tonus: [00:10:57] Yeah, it’s totally a different language, and I find I have been really lucky in my teaching career that I have had principals and administrators who have had musical experience. My previous principal actually was a trombone player, went through marching band all the way he and his wife actually used to run the USA drum major camps, which trained drum majors for marching bands. So he was all the way 100 percent like band born and raised, and I never had to explain myself to him, which was really relieving. I feel like in a lot of a lot of other areas, I have to explain, Oh, so in band, this is how x y z works. But I could just share a funny thing that happened or share something with him that we were trying to accomplish. And he would understand immediately, like the whole meaning behind what I was saying, and it was just so relaxing to have someone understand ha how much
Mindy Peterson: [00:11:57] Of that first five year burn out. Wrote that you were talking about can be sort of foreshadowed or you kind of get an idea that that might be happening if you go into that field, if you are doing, say, student teaching or even a job shadow, like how much of that do you think you can pick up on before you actually get to the point of finishing a degree in music ED and going into it and then figuring out, Oh, this might not be the right fit for me.
Veronica Tonus: [00:12:26] I’m going to draw a little comparison here from my own life. I have a 17 month old son, so
Mindy Peterson: [00:12:33] I’ve got a toddler, LSU
Veronica Tonus: [00:12:39] Student teaching and job shadowing. Preparing you for teaching is like babysitting, preparing you for being a parent.
Mindy Peterson: [00:12:48] I love that comparison.
Veronica Tonus: [00:12:51] People tell you, they tell you, they tell you, but you don’t understand what really is going to feel like and what the what the joys and heartbreaks of it are until you’re actually living it. So I feel like, you know, you can some people, you know, they babysitting, they’re sitting there like a poop. Nope, thank you very much. Next. And the same thing goes for teaching. They might be in the classroom and they’re like, Ooh, boogers, thank you. No, but you know. But if you get a taste of it, you’re not. It’s still not going to really prepare you. Sure. And even schooling with my music teacher, friends and I, we’re a very close knit group. We talk about how much we valued our undergraduate program. Many of my friends and I went to University of the Pacific in Stockton, which is in California, which has a fantastic and well-known music education program, and we really value the quality of our education in those four years. But we all agree no matter how how good your undergrad training is, it does not prepare you for actual day to day life in the classroom. Hmm. That is something you can only learn by doing and by experiencing over and over and by trying things with your own students, you know, not theoretical students in a book. Uh-huh.
Mindy Peterson: [00:14:12] Is it possible to describe one of those typical days in the life of a middle school band teacher? Is there a typical day in the life of a middle school band teacher? What might what might surprise us about a typical day? Is it possible to do that?
Veronica Tonus: [00:14:29] Well, I can walk you through my schedule and then OK. But I mean, so for me, I teach elementary and junior high fifth through ninth grade, and that’s mainly in my district because our teachers align to our strengths in music rather than site specific. So I teach only band, even though my junior high has band, choir and orchestra. The orchestra teacher also travels to other school sites so that he can only teach orchestra, which is his strength and his primary, and etc. So I start my day at the elementary school. I have five or six classes per day that are 30 minutes. I teach my students. Each of my students get one 30 minute lesson once a week, so I see like a clap,
Mindy Peterson: [00:15:16] Like a pretty good. I mean, is that typical?
Veronica Tonus: [00:15:18] Well, I mean, when I say each of my students, I mean each class of students. So we have.
Mindy Peterson: [00:15:23] So you’re not you’re not talking about one on one.
Veronica Tonus: [00:15:25] No, I would love to have one on one. No. Wow. No. I have like a class of 10 clarinets that I see for a 30 minute time period once a week. And I I’m blessed that it’s not a full mixed band. It’s by instruments so I can do instrument specific instruction, which is great. But it’s still very rapid fire. And I say the same things over and over and I say the same jokes over and over and over. And part of the reason why I love what I do is I think I’m a funny human being, and so I laugh at my own jokes every single time. Even though I might say the same joke 20 times in a week. And then I pack up and I travel over to my junior high school, which in my town is seven eight nine, which is kind of odd. And then I have I have lunch and then I have my three classes after school, a 7th grade band and eighth and ninth grade concert band, and then in eighth and ninth grade jazz band. And we do, you know, each class has its normal routine. We set up, we do a warm up. I have my list of songs for the day. We go through our rehearsal process and pack up like, basically, that is what I do, and that is a day to day routine. But what is not day to day routine are the funny Kodak moments. I call them the interactions between myself and these hilarious little human beings. And I would be lying if I said, if I told you that I didn’t laugh my like, laugh my socks off every single day because of something that came out of one of these kids mouths. Really? Yes. But that’s part of the fun and part of why I love it. I love teaching Junior High School because I tell people they’re my kind of weird people say, Oh, you teach middle school, oh, you’re a saint. I’m like, No, they’re just I get their weird and they get mine.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:14] Well, that’s such an impactful time of life that you’re working with. Another thing that just sticks in my mind about my kids’ school experience is when my kids went into middle school, which at the time was seventh and eighth grade in our district. When my oldest went into that school, there was a meeting between the principal and the parents before school started. And the principal said to the parents, he said the the time that your kids spend in our school is the period of life where they’re going to experience the most growth and the most changes of their entire life other than the first two years of life. Mm hmm. And I remember just being hit by that like, Oh my goodness, that is pretty incredible. Like, I’m sure he’s totally right, but I never thought about it like that. And with you, you’re kind of expanding a little bit on that on the lower end, which I feel like fifth and sixth grade is sort of like the new seventh and eighth grade. I feel like kids are aging at a quicker rate or maturing at an earlier rate. In some ways, so you’re really you’re really getting an impressionable age group.
Veronica Tonus: [00:18:26] Yes, absolutely. And I love it. I just love watching them grow and change and explore. And I just feel so lucky to be to try to create a space where they can be themselves and they can be themselves with me and that I can be a safe adult for them to to try things on with, you know, like, you know, junior high middle school, that age group. I feel like we’re all trying to find what our personalities are. Find what our style is. Am I goth? Am I, you know, like everybody’s trying things on to see what fits and what feels right to them, and it’s the first time that they’re becoming more individual. Even in elementary school, a lot of what you do is parent driven. Sure. And you know, the parent sends the email, the parent does this. The parent helps, you know, drops off their lunch when they forget it. And because they need that developmentally, they need that support. But in middle school, that’s when they’re starting to really kind of stand on their own. Two feet started to do things independently, emailing their teachers on their own, asking for help, trying things out, making their own plans. And the thing that’s really lovely about middle school music, like a lot of people think, Oh, you know, oh, middle school music that sounds so awful. Like, how do you listen to that all the time? The fun thing that I really love about middle school music and personalities is that you get the opportunity to introduce them to musicianship and like aesthetic valuing.
Veronica Tonus: [00:19:59] It’s not just press the right buttons and the right sound comes out, it’s how do you shape the music? How do you then make it be a reflection of your internal emotions because you’ve learned just enough of your instrument in order to be able to manipulate it in a way that can make it sound and sound different ways and manipulate how your audience perceives what you’re playing. And that’s really lovely. You know, later on, you get to metaphorical stuff like, you know, play like chocolate milk, like you can get really gooey like that with it. But middle school is where you’re learning. What does that even mean and how do I do it? And oh my gosh, that sounds so cool. Wasn’t that awesome? I’m going to use one example here real quick. Sure. My seventh graders are the delight of my day. They are so in it. They are so ready to go and I can just try things out with them. They can be my little guinea pigs. So in one of these, like, you know, how do you play notes with different styles? We were doing a warm up that includes like play eight eighth notes in a row and I decided on a whim that, you know, they’re not quite playing the they’re not quite playing them all the same way. Some people are playing them long.
Veronica Tonus: [00:21:19] Some people are playing them short. Let’s make the style the same. But instead of going, I would like you all to play staccato. Like they don’t really understand what that means or what that feels like. Yet I just decided to shout out an animal name. I was like, All right, everybody play these eighth notes like, you’re an elephant, but don’t talk about it. Just what does that mean to you? How does that translate to your instrument? Go. And they all played and they’re like, Oh, that was a different sound. And then I went, you know, I chose another another animal. Ok, cheetah. And I didn’t give them time to talk about it. I gave them time to think about it in their own heads. But then afterwards, they say things like, Oh, well, I was thinking about. Cheetah running in the front feet, in the back feet, and I decided to do it this way and the conversations and the insight awfulness that come out of them is just it shocks me all the time and it’s what I love. And then we have really hilarious parts like, I don’t know if you remember from a tiny corner of the internet a long time ago trog door. No, no. Ok. Trog door is he’s a dragon. He’s he’s a he’s a dragon man is a very awful looking dragon. He’s a he’s an awful looking dragon. Yes. Ok, that’s my best explanation.
Mindy Peterson: [00:22:37] And so you have an image in my mind.
Veronica Tonus: [00:22:39] Ok. And my students know who Trog door is. It’s kind of it’s a joke that we have shared. It’s an inside joke. And so for the last one, just for fun, I say play like Trog door, and it was utter chaos. And it sounded awful and everybody fell out of their chairs laughing. So like, when I can tell you my, my routine, I can say we do rehearsal and I teach them how to better themselves. But I can’t explain just how fun and hilarious it is. When I say play eighth notes like Trog door and then chaos ensues, but it’s learning.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:12] Yes, love that. The term frontline worker came into our vernacular thanks to COVID and all teachers, but maybe especially music teachers really have become some of our frontline workers with our kids. How do you see the pandemic having impacted this facet of being a music teacher? Do you find that you’re getting involved in more counseling type of a role as a music teacher? Do you see this impacting the conversations that you overhear our kids having? Tell us more about that and how the pandemic has affected this vocation, so
Veronica Tonus: [00:23:50] I will say that online band didn’t work at all. And so I’m not going to go into that. But I will say that the immense amount of relief coming back together and being able to hear each other play was huge for myself and for the kids, and I was so grateful to have the students who were able to stick it through and come back to play together. And that has been a wonderful little beacon of light. In the middle of a hard day is being able to make music even if it’s not super complex or anything like that. I know for my students who have gone through online learning with band specifically, their ability to chew into harder material or more challenging material is significantly less than it has been in previous years. But the important thing is that that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I meet them where they are, and I continue to go one step forward at a time. I still my goals are still the same. I want to increase their musicianship. I want to increase their connection to one another, which was severely lacking in the online world. I want to make sure that they have empathy in their academic and social lives, and I want them to have fun. I want them to have fun and do something creative and entice their there or pique their curiosity, encourage them to go, learn something that I won’t teach them, like seven Nation Army. I refuse to teach it, but they’re going to go learn it on their own anyway.
Veronica Tonus: [00:25:34] A lot of what that means is I’ve done away with a lot more of the rigid, inflexible planning parts of my program that I used to have in order to really focus on bringing them back into the fold, finding the joy and then moving forward slowly until we build back up to the level of confidence that we had. And because of that, I can be a whole lot more flexible with my day to day goals so we can all lesson plan, right? You can say I’m going to rehearse this section, this section, we’re going to do this exercise whatnot. But the way the kids walk in the room is really what makes me choose to do what I do in my classroom. For example, I teach ninth graders so they’re at right at their start of their teenager zombie face. And sometimes I can really like the way they walk into the room. I can really tell that they’re burnt out. Their brains are Jell-O. They’re overwhelmed, they’re they’ve just got so many emotions that they don’t know which one to feel anymore. And so I’ll look at them and I can ask them because they know me. They trust me. We trust each other. I can say, how many of you like where are you today? Where are you today? Are you? How much brain do you have? Is honestly what I say to them because I speak my own little language. How much brain do you have today? And they give.
Veronica Tonus: [00:26:57] I have them give me a thumb scale where like. Thumbs up, as I have all of the brain we can use brain and thumbs down is I spent all of my brain earlier today, I have nothing left. Can we just play hot cross buns? I don’t know how to do anything else anymore. And so I kind of I check in with them and based on how they’re feeling and how much they’re able to give that day, I’ll meet them where they are and try to still accomplish those same goals, making sure that they are working together. They’re expressing themselves. I’m not overworking them just for the sake of trying to get something at a particular grade level. And that’s I think I do that a lot more and see that need a lot more in my kids these days. And a lot of them are very my students are very open about their mental health issues and their struggles and what they’re trying to do. And a lot of them share with me what it feels like to be in band class and that just, oh my gosh, I have to hold it together in front of them. But I mean, it breaks my heart what the what the kids are going through. But I’m glad to be a small part of trying to trying to help them heal a little bit or try to help them at least endure and keep going through and find positives in their day.
Mindy Peterson: [00:28:08] Well, it’s encouraging to hear that that generation is open about where they are in talking about it and just kind of aware of those types of things, because I think for so long there’s been such stigma around mental health issues, and it’s great to hear that that’s breaking down and people are becoming. It’s something that’s being talked about more openly and acknowledged, and there’s just more of an awareness about it.
Veronica Tonus: [00:28:34] Absolutely. And I think they’re doing a great job to being open about the benefits of using medication for certain things, too. So like a student will straight up, come up to me and say, Hey, Miss Thomas, you know, I just we are we just switched to a new medication and it’s really like the side effects are making me feel really foggy right now. So if I’m if I look like I’m zoning out in class, I’m not trying to. I’m just I’m trying to adjust to this new medication because it wasn’t working for me before. Like, they’re they’ll just say that. And I yeah, and I love that they’re really breaking those patterns because even I feel a lot of stigma about that too.
Mindy Peterson: [00:29:15] Sure. Well, before I close things out, are there any myths or misconceptions that you think are out there about the field of band directing that you’d like to correct?
Veronica Tonus: [00:29:28] I think the biggest one that I thought about earlier was for middle school specifically that it’s some god awful place filled with honks and squeaks. And I don’t know how you could manage to listen to that all day, and I think I want to share with people. The biggest and well-kept secret is that middle school is amazing. They are wonderful human beings. They are open to exploring themselves and exploring themselves through music. And the best part of my day is seeing a light bulb go off in a kid’s eyes. And I love the moment when they figure something out for the first time. Same thing with elementary band where, you know, honestly, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard is not like the L.A. Philharmonic. The most beautiful sound I have ever heard is the very, very first clarinet squeak that a kid did not know that they could make. They make it and their eyes, their faith, their whole face lights up and it changes, and they’re a little bit afraid of what they just did, you know? But it’s so great. And honestly, that’s what gave me life after coming back from online learning was like coming back and getting that first clarinet squeak. I didn’t know that’s what I needed. And so that’s that’s why I love what I do. And, you know, Misconception two about music teachers. It’s not all life consuming. I do have other interests outside of music and outside of teaching. Not all of us, not all of us. Just eat sleep, breathe music all of the time. We’re also people.
Mindy Peterson: [00:31:11] Yeah. Well, I am totally with you on that first misconception in terms of I also love that age group. Well, real quick before I have you close us out with our coda. Tell us real quick about your amused podcast.
Veronica Tonus: [00:31:25] Yes, absolutely. So it’s amused. A Music Educators podcast. Of course, we had to have a pun as a title use Ed Amused podcast anyway, so this started out of the same idea that I was referring to before that whole isolation bit. Yeah, it is myself, my husband, who is a high school music teacher, my best friend, who is a high school choir teacher, and our other friend who previously was the marching band teacher at marching band director at UC Davis, but is now at Oregon State University. So the four of us would. Get together in our living room and we put a recording device in the middle and we would just talk, we would talk about our mistakes of the week. We would cop to something that didn’t go right or we would share a story of, Oh my gosh, you would not believe this field trip disaster that just happened to me this week and we would talk to one another about maybe a topic that we were interested in trying to figure out, figure out something about our teaching and get input from our colleagues. And then we would end with a win of the week because one of the hardest things to do when you are trying so hard to learn something.
Veronica Tonus: [00:32:33] One of the hardest things to do is see a positive in a week that was filled with difficulties, and we found it was really important to say like, no, you need to acknowledge something positive that happened, so the negative doesn’t overwhelm you. And that was really important. We started it when we were all in our first five years of teaching, right, when that burnout is really high, right, when isolation is at its peak. And we found it really important to have those conversations, and we hoped that by recording them and putting them out on the internet that maybe somebody would hear it and not feel so isolated themselves. We honestly started the podcast for us and we are grateful that it can do anything for anybody else to make them feel less alone and less, you know, just less isolated. We understand what you’re going through. You’ve probably done the same thing that we have. Please listen and share in our conversation and we’ve been going for, I think, Oh my gosh, eight years we’ve been doing this for eight years. So we’re no longer four teachers in their first five years of teaching. Nope. And it’s don’t go back and listen to the first episode. It’s awful.
Mindy Peterson: [00:33:41] You know, all podcasters say that.
Veronica Tonus: [00:33:43] Yes, exactly. So but that and we’ve really we’ve grown up together as teachers and it’s it’s nice to celebrate one another.
Mindy Peterson: [00:33:50] That’s awesome. Well, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or story you can share with us today in closing?
Veronica Tonus: [00:34:06] Yes, absolutely. This one was actually during the pandemic during the first lockdown at the graduation ceremony for my ninth graders in 2020. Like I said before, I get the opportunity to teach my students for five years, if I start them in fifth grade and they continue in my junior high and we have a really close connection and I have had a group of eighth and ninth graders who were really invested in music, loved writing their own music and without me knowing about it. They took some of their compositional ideas, and they located a composer named Jared Elias to commission a piece of music for them and for the junior high school band. One of the reasons that they were inspired to do this is because I had shared the year before of my huge grief of my college band director passing away who he was a mentor to every music teacher. I know a huge force of music education in California, and not only that, he was band dead. You know, he was a father figure away from home. He came to my wedding and was at the wedding of all of the friends that I know. And so his passing hugely affected me and my students felt that and wanted to commemorate it and say, like, you know, you have been that for us, and we want to make sure that we put some good into the world for that. So they collaborated and commissioned a piece of music that they helped compose. And not only that, but they learned the parts and they recorded a virtual band to do the. They recorded themselves playing the parts as a virtual band, and they presented it to me as a complete surprise at the graduation ceremony. Then they read, they got a dedication from my best friend at the beginning of it and got they contacted the college and got photos of him with like the correct permissions and everything. And they they gifted me this piece of music and I have never sobbed harder.
Mindy Peterson: [00:36:12] Oh my goodness, Veronica, I have chills. I can’t believe that ninth graders did all of that. That’s incredible.
Veronica Tonus: [00:36:19] It was incredible. It meant so much to me that. That they have that kind of love and they have that kind of empathy and that they wanted to put more good into the world and that I had in any small way, in any small part, a piece of that of that humanity for them. And so it was very special to me, and I can’t wait to actually get to perform it with my own students again in the future.
Transcribed by Sonix.ai