Being a music teacher is a beautiful blessing and I have gotten so much fulfillment from teaching.

In this article, I write about the history of my teaching, how I became a music teacher, and how the music school came about. I discuss some of my favorite moments in teaching and some of my not-so-favorite moments in lessons.

If you’d rather listen instead of reading, check out the podcast version below!

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My music education before I became a music teacher

To give some background about who exactly I am, my name is Chelsea Hart-Melcher, and I am a music teacher and an opera singer. I started out with my education when I went to Central Michigan University first for my Bachelor’s in Music. And then I went to the Ohio State University for my Masters and there, I was a GA.

Chelsea in Ohio State University

I taught some of their group classes—so for people that were non-majors in music, they all came together as a group. And there was a curriculum they were supposed to have, and a book, so I couldn’t have free reign as the teacher.

And so I thought, “You know what? Let’s make this more fun!” Because they were a little bored, I think.

And so we jazzed it up a little bit and we kind of made it into a little scenes program, which was a lot of fun!

 

Chelsea performing at Indiana University

And then I studied at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. I didn’t teach as much music over there. Once I finished my professional degree over there, I moved back to Marysville. And then I picked back up some of my students that were over there.

So then, that’s kind of where the teaching and the music school came about. Both my husband Paul and I were teaching students in the Marysville area.

Red School of Music in the Making

Chelsea and Paul Melcher of Red School of Music

First, we started out teaching in this apartment we have in Dublin. It was a really really small apartment. The students would come to the apartment, and it would just be this tiny little space for learning music and we would have to worry about the neighbors hearing and everything.

And then we ended up moving to a house in Marysville, which was one step closer. We started teaching out of the house and then it got to the point where we were teaching at the same time, so we had to use two of the rooms. We had to use the main room and we had people walking up our stairs into the spare office—the spare bedroom that we had at that time.

Studio image (1)

And so it kind of got awkward because all of these people were in our house at the same time. It didn’t feel like there was really much privacy. And we also wanted to feel like we wanted something more professional, like a music studio dedicated for lessons.

Upgrading to a studio, meeting new music teachers

We ended up meeting one of my dear, dear friends now and she has a dance studio. And then we said, “Well, hey, let’s see if we can kind of work together!” and she had a spare space. So we worked in making three rooms out of that space.

And then we started teaching, and so we had three rooms there. First it was just Paul and I still teaching over there.

And then we met Christina. Christina ended up teaching for us too, and it was so nice to have her as our music teacher.

Christina instructing a piano student

She’s one of the sweetest people ever! And then from there, she started teaching last year, so this will actually be her one year anniversary as our music teacher for piano, voice and guitar this fall.

And since then, now we have eight additional music teachers in one year. Which is really really cool! So we’re trying to fill up the rooms as much as possible. There’s both Paul and I teaching, and then we have other voice teachers, and we have a strings teacher, and we have a Tots program (which is a music-based class for toddlers), and we have some all-around music teachers that are doing things.

We just had Emerson, who’s amazing. This fall, he would start teaching a LOT of instruments, from voice, piano, electric bass, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, to oboe which is really exciting! He can also teach bassoon, saxophone, tuba, horn, euphonium, and percussion.

Emerson playing the piano

So that’s how the music school came about.

Favorite things about being a music teacher

And then I wanted to talk to you about my favorite things about being a teacher, and my not-so-favorite things about being a teacher.

More than just music lessons: mentoring and becoming a ‘therapist’

So my favorite things include just being able to feel like I’m a mentor, and making a difference in the next generation.

There are so many things that I’m passionate about, and so many things that I feel like the experiences and education that I’ve had in my life, I can bring that to other people. And that seems and feels rewarding and fulfilling to me.

creekviews perf of alladin

And there’s a lot of times where my students will say things like, “This is my therapy session,” And sometimes we end up talking and we talk about things that are deep or personal to the students, and I think it’s really special.

Because I’m kind of someone from the outside that’s not really interconnected with their school life, with their social life. And somebody that they’re able to trust. And so I feel like it’s very rewarding to feel like I can give therapy, in a way, to them, and use the music, and use the lessons to help them grow in confidence.

Interesting moments in teaching music

And so I have a couple stories of some fun things that have been my experiences in teaching. One thing is, I had a student and she had the lead role in a play, and there was a piece that she was supposed to sing. It was her big solo number, and she had to sustain a certain note, that was slightly outside of her comfort zone.

Usually, she would sing it in her head voice. And we were playing around with, “Well, this is kind of supposed to be a bigger part of the section, it’s supposed to be really dramatic so let’s try belting this.”

In the course of the lessons in that season, she ended up being able to do it but she really wasn’t comfortable doing it. But I had heard her do it in her lessons and I knew that she was capable of doing it.

Because I’m kind of someone from the outside that’s not really interconnected with their school life, with their social life. And somebody that they’re able to trust. And so I feel like it’s very rewarding to feel like I can give therapy, in a way, to them, and use the music, and use the lessons to help them grow in confidence. 

And so it was the week of the show, and she was getting all in her head about it. We had the lesson—we really didn’t sing much at that lesson at all. We ended up talking through things, playing with the mind games and the mindset and the mental games and everything like that.

And then, we ended up talking about the worst-case scenario and what you would do and how you would handle it. And then she left, and then I went to go see the show and the whole time, I was freaking out. I was like, “oh my gosh, what’s gonna happen when she gets to this part,”

And she nailed it!

And it was that moment that I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” I mean, she knew that she could do it, deep, deep down.

And I loved being a part of that process in whatever way that I played a part of it, to just feel like I could help her discover that. To help and support her to do something that she was already capable of doing. So that was really exciting.

Unrivaled determination

Here in Marysville, show choir is really big. And they have a really great show choir program.

Swingers Unlimited

Marysville Swingers Unlimited © Productions Magazine

I had a student who really wanted to get into that show choir. So she auditioned, and she didn’t make it her first year doing it.

She was so determined. I have not seen a student really do the things that she has done in her determination to make it into show choir.

But she kind of went a little crazy in a way—in a good way! She would work so, so hard and I would continue to push her, and we worked for an entire year. For show choir, they’re singing and dancing at the same time, so she would do things like go on her treadmill and sing as she was on her treadmill.

And it was fun to watch her and see that… And then that year, she ended up making it.

I was so freaking excited, because it was just so cool to see how when a student works so, so hard and they have everything, they put their mind to it and then they end up doing it and it was like “yes!” It was really exciting.

And also some fun moments have been when we have students that are interested in going into music. It’s fun to feel like, “Oh, I’m their music teacher and all of a sudden, they have this interest in going into music too,” and it’s very exciting. It’s very rewarding to feel like, “okay, what can I do? I want to help you in every way that I can, because you ended up wanting to be something that I’m doing right now!”

And I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world that I can only get as a music teacher.

Timid student belting

Another thing that was really exciting is having a student wow you. We had a Broadway program this summer where students got to work on singing and musical technique, explore elements of acting, stage presence, choreography, dancing, even show choir and other aspects of what it means to be a performer. It’s a class meant to simulate an experience similar to “real life” performing and expectations. 

August Broadway Program

“Rise Up” Broadway Show © Carie Dernlan

I cast a student in a certain role and she actually had to belt a little outside her comfort zone.

In her lessons, she was really timid. And on stage, she was also really timid in doing it. And I just kind of kept pushing her in her lessons…

And in one of her lessons, she all of a sudden belted, and then she did it then onstage.

And I was like, “Oh my gosh! This is exactly what we’ve been trying to do this whole time! What helped you come to this moment?”

And she said, “Well… You know, I’ve just been really thinking about it. And I realized that if I don’t do it on my lessons or even on my warmups, I’m not gonna be able to do it on stage. And I really want to be able to do that, and I’m getting more comfortable with it the more that we’re doing it.”

And I was like YES! That’s exactly what we’re trying to get after as well.

 

So those are some really exciting moments that I’ve had teaching, my favorite things about teaching… And now, some not-so-favorite things about teaching.

Not-so-favorite moments as a music teacher

Lessons with Stinkbugs

I’m not a bug person, at all.

At our house before the one we’re currently in, we had stinkbugs really really bad. I would be teaching and then all of a sudden, in a lesson, there would be a stinkbug on the wall.

Stinkbug

I. Just. Can’t.

I just can’t handle that at all!

Luckily the student was a highschooler, and they were like, “Oh yeah, I got it! No problem.” And so the student had to take care of it.

But then there was another moment where I was teaching and there was a six-year-old student.

I was freaking out because there was a stinkbug and it was kind of flying around. And I was supposed to be the courageous person.

…Right?

No, not happening. At all. And she was freaking out because she was like “Oh my gosh, there’s a bug!” and I was feeling the same way.

So I had to run downstairs… and get Paul. He had to take care of it.

Birds joining in on lessons

So that was one experience. And there’s also another similar horror story.

Chelsea and Molly Mae

So since I had Molly and then we had quarantine but we wanted to continue offering lessons, I was teaching (and I have been teaching) outside, where the students could come and they have a lesson outside, and I have the piano set up in our garage.

There was a bird. That flew in the garage. During the lesson.

And then it couldn’t figure out how to get back out.

Bird on wood

And so I was freaking out, because there was this bird that was flapping all around. It couldn’t get past because of the top lip of the garage and I was standing right underneath and so it was just flapping away and I was like, “Oh my gosh, is it gonna come and get me?”

And the student was scared too and so we ended up having to move.

We just had our lessons in my front yard because I just couldn’t handle being with the bird, and eventually it got out. I had the rest of the lessons that day in my front yard, and eventually, it was fine.

Finding your balance as a music teacher and performer

Chelsea performing during her study at the Ohio State University

Another thing that has been challenging for me is finding the balance between now being a performer myself, and being a mom and then being a teacher.

Before, I had about sixty students, and that was before I had kids. So then, in that process—and I have a hard time saying no to people sometimes—anyone that wants to study with me I would just go, “Yeah, sure, why not?”

And I would just make time for them. And have really, really long days.

And then now, all of a sudden, with two children, life is very much so different.

Paul and children, Molly Mae and Michael

I have to really think about my priorities and what is the most important thing. In doing that, I realized that I can’t teach as much as I would like to. That’s been hard because when I had Molly, about 80, 90 percent of my students ended up going to study with Paul.

And that was great. It was perfect timing because he had actually just left his current full-time job that he was at, and so he had the ability to do that.

But since then, there’s been about forty students that used to be mine, and they’re in wonderful places, they’re in good homes, they’re with some of our other teachers and with Paul. I know they’re in really good hands.

Chelsea with one of the Broadway performers

There’s a part of me that’s like, “Oh, I really should work to get them back in my schedule at some point,” and kind of finding that I’m feeling guilty about that, and not really knowing exactly when.

But just saying, “Okay, you know what? Priority right now is my kids. They’re really really young, they need me a lot.” I’m up in the night shift a lot of times, when the nights are bad. There’s only so much that I can handle.

The Business Side of Music, trading performing for teaching

Another thing that I struggle with sometimes: in performing and everything, I didn’t really have to worry about the business side of things. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn a whole lot about owning your own business when I was in music school.

There was an element of, okay, now that Paul and I have this music school, and we have a lot of different students and a lot of different teachers… there’s all these things to manage, there’s schedules, billing, there’s getting back with families and a lot of emails, and just building a presence.

All of that has been challenging because I didn’t really learn that. So the things that I’m learning about that and applying are just self-taught.

Chelsea working hard

Right now, I’m trying to educate myself and listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot about that. Because it is a totally different world, from performing to owning your own business and being a small business owner (especially in the time we’re in right now).

That’s definitely been challenging, and I’ve definitely missed performing. I still do, and I still plan to add more into my schedule again.

Right now, the phase that I’m in, I have to say no to a lot more things. I’m not going out and doing a lot of auditions, and I haven’t been doing a lot of auditions because I feel like the place that I’m in right now is the priority with the kids.

Childcare and Career: Balance between the music teacher role and the parent role

Probably the most challenging thing right now is that I’m nursing Molly.

When we had to go on quarantine, she ended up not taking bottles well. She used to take bottles well, but now she doesn’t. Because I never really left. And she’s not to the point where she’s really eating baby food or real food, or anything like that. 

Chelsea and Molly Mae

She’s still quite dependent on me, and so I’m trying to build my fall schedule right now and figure out:

  • How many times am I gonna have to nurse her?
  • Am I gonna try to teach from home, or am I gonna try to go to the studio?

I prefer teaching at the studio most of the time because it’s easy, and I just feel in my element. And when I’m at home, there’s half of my brain that’s thinking of kids, kids, kids.

So it’s better for me and my focus to teach at the studio, but then I think, “Oh my gosh, she has to feed!” so I either have to be back home or I have to be teaching from home…

Managing all of that and figuring out the schedule for that has been really challenging.

Aaaaand that’s me. A musician turned music teacher, with my fair share of good and bad moments managing my own music school.

So that’s my teaching background, how the music school has come about, the favorite things about teaching that I’ve experienced and my not-so-favorite things.

Please tell me, if you’re a teacher, what has your teaching journey been like? What are you struggling with? What are some of your favorite experiences that you’ve had?

And if you’re a student, have you had any crazy experiences in your lessons that you’d like to share? Hopefully not any with me but maybe if you’re the bug person, then you can definitely say about the bugs!

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I was a voice major in college, and I felt like it was a rough transition from being a student, a music major to suddenly being faced with the pressure of performing and making a living out of music.

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