Teaching and TikTok with Katherine Rosenfeld Behind the Red Curtain

Introducing Katherine…

CHELSEA: Welcome, everyone, I am so excited to announce our special guest with you today. Her name is Katherine Rosenfeld. And I met her on Instagram and I saw some amazing TikTok videos and reels that she was doing. And I’m like, This girl is pretty awesome. She’s speaking my language.

And now I don’t feel so silly when I’m like, Is it okay? Is it okay for me to be like a music teacher and putting a real out on Instagram because there’s a lot of people that are not doing that? I’m super, super excited.

Welcome, Katherine, tell us for those that don’t know about you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

KATHERINE:  Absolutely. So I grew up singing and my parents met singing in the church choir. So it goes far back to the choral gene in my family. And I grew up singing and loved it and started taking private voice lessons in high school.

By the time I hit high school, I knew that I wanted to teach music when I grew up. And I put a lot of time and energy into pursuing those goals. And then went to Northern Arizona University where I completed my undergrad. And then I graduated in December of 2019. Started the job I have in January 2020.

So I am a very new teacher, I teach middle school choir part-time right now, also run a private voice studio, and then sing professionally at a church as well. So kind of doing the little bit of everything musician thing right now. But ultimately, my heart is in the classroom.

So that’s just a little bit about me.

CHELSEA: Yeah, that’s awesome. And was there a defining moment for you when you were because you said you decided that you wanted to go into music in high school?

Was there maybe a specific teacher or a specific experience that you had that made you be like, yes, this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.

KATHERINE: I think that my story is more about a lot of little moments that were like that. For me, I loved singing and even kind of started talking about wanting to teach music as early as elementary school.

So my parents put me in piano lessons right away. I hated them. I did not see the connection. So I needed that. And now I do. And so lots of little experiences I sang with a few children’s choruses that toured internationally.

So those experiences of singing all over the world and kind of seeing the way that music is just a great way to connect people who have almost nothing else in common was cool to me. 

I think just lots and lots of those little moments solidifying that I was on the right track and lots and lots of influential teachers, it would be hard to name one who was the driving force. So it’s just such a huge blessing to have that many teachers and moments that led me to where I am now.

CHELSEA: For sure, was there a specific experience that you had in a choir that made you say, Oh, I love choirs, what I want to do, I want to teach or maybe it was a specific piece that you did and that you just fell in love with?

KATHERINE: So I know it is very basic. But I do know that the first time I remember loving choral music was a recording that my dad was on with the choir he sang and in Santa Barbara, and it was the Lord’s in Omani mysterium.

And I just remember that piece sinking out to me, all the way back to elementary school, and just really, really loving that recording, I still visit that same recording of that piece, probably once a year. I just love it. And that was like the piece for me very early identifying that this is a cool thing.

And then from there, just the community and acquisition I think kept me on the path.

CHELSEA: That’s awesome and let’s talk a little bit about your experience as a music major. What was that experience like for you? And did you feel like there were struggles or pain points along the way? And then segwaying into. Do you feel like there are missing pieces from music programs or things that you’re like? I wish that they would teach this in those degree programs.

KATHERINE: Right, Absolutely. Well, I had a great experience majoring in music, I was very busy the whole time, but it was wonderful. I had a great relationship with my private voice teacher, as well as with the choral faculty, which sometimes can be challenging depending on the school, a method to departments don’t quite see eye to eye on technique, and all that sort of stuff happens a little bit, but I just had a great experience through all college.

And I do feel like though as soon as I got into the real world, some things were I mean, there’s no time to learn everything and there’s almost a part of me that wishes future Katherine could have told me like really focused on these things and these things not quite as much because you can’t give all of your energy to all the things you’re learning and I feel like not even necessarily always gaps in the program, but gaps in what I zeroed in and focused in on it versus what I maybe should have.

But I wish that there had been better prepared for I don’t know, this is a lot of what your philosophy kind of works on. But on the business side of things, I’m just filing. I’m gonna have to figure out how to file as an independent contractor for the first time this year for my taxes. And all that sort of thing, I think would be very, very helpful. And I think just anyone in the music industry should have some of that music business. experience that understanding.

So that I would say and then additionally, I think that learning styles are having a little bit more exposure to styles other than bel canto singing, I know how voice students who want to work primarily on like pop and indie or who want, maybe you need help getting away from that belt a little bit, but I never belt it.

So it’s hard for me to coach someone towards or away or whatever because I am self-taught and all that sort of stuff. So I think those probably seek out the big gaps in my mind. 

CHELSEA: For sure. Sometimes it seems like, there’s just a very one-track pack in music I denied. I was at a music performance so I didn’t I don’t know exactly about the music ed.

But it was just like, Okay, well you have to perform at the Met, or else you haven’t made it. Instead of thinking like, wow, look at this amazing degree that you can have, and all of these crazy things that you can do with it, and how it’s so subjective.

Like my reality is different from your reality, which is different from this person’s reality. And, and there’s just, I think so much more that we can have. And instead of feeling like the box is closed, and like this is the path and you just have to sing these, these aren’t songs or bel canto, or arias. And that’s the sound that you’re going to. So I’m so glad that you mentioned that I brought that up.

Let’s talk a little bit about your job with your students and middle schoolers, a lot of people would be like, Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I could handle teaching middle schoolers. So let’s talk a little bit about what you love about them? What struggles do you have? Let’s just talk all about that.

KATHERINE: It’s really hard for me to suffer from it, especially when we talk about struggles. What’s the struggle because the majority of my teaching career has been online, and what’s the struggle with the age group, so I’ll do my best to speak to that. But it’s still so new for me.

I think that all through college, I said that I would be open to middle school. I just didn’t want to consciously close that off. I had friends who were like elementary or high school, or just the big High School job, you know, that’s what I want. And I was like, I don’t think I’d hate the middle. Like, I don’t want to say I’d love it. But I don’t think I’d hate it.

So I knew I was always open to it, which made me think like that, that’s more than a lot of people can say. So I gotta start there and see how that goes. And a student taught high school for eight weeks and middle for eight weeks. And I loved both experiences for very different reasons. And when this middle school job opened up, it felt like such a good fit.

They are such a fun age group. And you kind of get elements of that general music, I can do something with like a basic ostinato or something under it and like put something together really quickly the way you might in an elementary classroom building something up. And then I can also rap with them. Because they’re ensembles.

It’s just a little bit of both. And then personality-wise, you get a little bit of both, too, right, you have kids who are a little bit younger, and you get to see the kind of growth and maturity. And then they can all, especially I’ve seen with COVID and all of the crazy things happening just in our world today. I’ve seen them grow up in a matter of seconds and have deep and heartfelt conversations and express themselves eloquently.

And so I think just that balance is cool with that age group. And I would encourage any education students to listen, do not write off any age group as I would never do this until you give it a try. Right? Give it a try. Because middle schoolers are awesome and more people. 

CHELSEA: That’s awesome. I love it. Let’s talk a little bit now about segwaying into your TikTok and your online presence. And when did you start that? And how did that begin and what made you feel like that was something that you wanted to do?

KATHERINE: I have also talked about this a little bit. Another podcast I was on recently, and it was so circumstantial. I downloaded the app, early quarantine because I thought that’s what my students were filling their time with, you know, everyone was home, no one had a plan, we didn’t all have puzzles yet to do at home.

Like we just didn’t have things to do at all. My kids were on TikTok. So I downloaded the app just as a means of something to talk about when we logged on to zoom in on this weird alternate universe we were living in.

And then I had made a couple of videos, and then very quickly ended up on the teacher side of TikTok and started seeing all these other educators who either had been on the AP for a while, or who had hopped on during quarantine, for the same reason that I did, and just kind of started connecting with people that way and started making content.

My account was very small, it’s still considered small compared to some of the other bigger teacher accounts out there. But I started making friends with a lot of people, and felt this sense of teacher community as well as connecting with my students.

And it just was kind of a fun thing to do. It still is for me just creative and Goofy and shows my students a piece of my personality that I think they would see in the classroom, but they might not be getting right now as much over zoom, it’s been a cool way for them to just see me and know me in ways that I think are hard for teachers to do with their students right now.

So I think that’s what kept me going and then a few months into having Tiktok was going to be part of a collaboration with some other teachers. And as that rounded the corner, I decided it was probably as good a time as any to start a teacher’s Instagram. So then I started that over the summer. And then usually double my reels there.

And then also post any educational things that I’ve come up with, any activities games, I have little story highlights, so that kind of leans a little bit more professional. And that was the weird way that I ended up having a teacher’s social media presence.

CHELSEA: That’s awesome. I love it and what would you say to someone that feels afraid to put themselves out there that maybe they’re a teacher? And they’re like, Oh, I see the importance of this. However, this is very scary. And what if I would have people who don’t like it? Or what if people think I’m stupid? Or what would you say to someone like that?

KATHERINE: I do think that it’s a unique niche. And it’s like a fun thing to do. And if it’s something that you’re doing, because you think you should be doing it or because you think it’s important. I don’t know that it is important enough for that sort of I mean, obviously the connection, all that sort of thing and posting having some sort of social media account, but I know that a lot of people do get embarrassed by the idea of like TikTok and all that stuff.

And I can’t say that my students don’t poke fun at me for it, and all that sort of stuff. So I think if, if you want to do it, and it’s going to be fun for you, it’s going to be a cool way to connect with educators and you want that and you are willing to potentially subject yourself to your kid, you know, you’re really putting yourself out there and so your kids are gonna see it, I encourage kind of the like fun roasting back and forth with my students that’s part of our dynamic with or without TikTok.

And so I knew I could handle any sort of poking fun. But I do think that’s something to consider, right? Or is your personality such that that would really offend you? Or if you’re TikToks, don’t do well, that you’ll play some piece of your worth in that, like I said, my account was still very small compared to most of my friends. And it’s truly a hobby and a cool way to connect with people.

I don’t care about how many people but just that, you know, connections like you and I find each other are the reason.

CHELSEA: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. Have you ever felt insecure or worried about when you put something out there? You’re like, Oh, my gosh, how is this gonna do? Or is it just kind of like, I don’t care? I mean, how do you handle that? And maybe the insecurities that might come with that?

KATHERINE: Yeah, so I think I have, especially as a performer and a musician, a lot of insecurities in things that I know that I have training in, and all this sort of stuff, right? You want to like, really prove yourself in those ways. And I just don’t transfer in my brain to TikTok like, it’s such a removed hobby in my brain, that if something doesn’t do well, the occasional comment will hurt, right?

So if I’m watching my numbers, and those are doing well, like kind of rolls off my back, it’s not that important to me. But every once in a while, someone will say a comment that’s, you know, targeted enough or specific enough that they took the time to say something unkind or unhelpful or come for some piece of my like teaching philosophy that they are perceiving from the video.

That’s the kind of stuff that kind of gets under my skin. But as far as the performance of an overall TikTok, I don’t care that that doesn’t transfer you.

CHELSEA: Let’s talk a little bit about negative comments because I think that that can be very paralyzing for some people, and they can put an element of their value or their self-worth into that. And how do you handle negative comments if you get them?

KATHERINE: Well, the first time it started happening, the first time I had a video kind of start to take off, I took the video down. And it was not fun to feel attacked. And it was coming for a very specific thing that was not the point of the video at all. I never put anything out there that I think is controversial enough to stir the pot or anything like that. It’s usually so just subjectively silly, whether it’s your brand of silly or not. Right, not everyone likes it.

But it’s usually not something that would spark any sort of controversy, and I had one that accidentally did and the comments were so presumptuous and so hurtful and coming in waves. And so that one I just took the video down, it was the first time that it ever happened to me. And from there on out.

That was really when I started making all these friends and connections with people and I just saw that there was a line of people who are on TikTok or on really any social media platform to connect with people and find cool people.

And then there are always trolls.

They’re always people who are just there to be unkind. And so now it rolls off my back. But I wouldn’t have traded that experience because I think a lot of educators, right, we’re aware that bullying is something that happens to our students. But being anonymous on the internet, and having the power to bully people was something I had never experienced.

I had never felt like that. ever in my life, you know, someone you know, looks you in the eyes and says something unkind. It hits very differently than all of these, you know, the magnitude and the unkindness with the anonymous through the screen.

And I think that having experienced just a tiny taste of that helps me when my students say that they’re struggling or something like that, or they have some sort of social media presence where they’re getting bullied. It feels so different than face to face bullying.

CHELSEA: Oh, for sure. And how do you go through that with your students? If you had a student that said they’re getting bullied online? How would you help them through that?

KATHERINE: So I know of a few minor cases, and they have been challenging to be a presence. I think one of the hardest things with teaching online is that you don’t have those asides. You don’t have those little moments. So calling students in to like my office hours to talk about things like that doesn’t seem appropriate.

Right now, if a student comes to me with some sort of issue, and I help them through it, but I haven’t had large scale things like that happen this year that I’ve been actively involved in just because of the nature of quarantine, but I just in general, I’m never someone who’s going to hold any secrets if I think that something I’d been through will help someone else.

So just using like, I actually kind of know what that feels like and then going from there. I think it’s how I would do that.

CHELSEA: For sure I think that’s so fantastic that you bring that point up because there does seem to be a disconnect sometimes between teachers and students in that way of like, well, they have no idea what I’m going through. And so it helps you empathize in that way so that’s amazing.

Let’s talk about your audience on TikTok, did you intentionally build an audience? Or try to strategize with hashtags or things?

Or is it just kind of like, you find inspiration from other things? And then you put yourself out there and the growth happens organically?

Are you planning to continue to grow your account? What is that like for you? What’s that process like?

KATHERINE: So I started with just my name as my handle, and then really wasn’t sure how the app worked, or how I was gonna like 08 and focus content, I had no thoughts in that way. And when I saw that so many teachers have kind of marketed themselves as like teacher content, I started going in that direction.

And then I pull in, really music-specific content. And that brings in like a music major audience a little bit more. And I think that that is especially connected with the music stuff, because there are so many teachers on TikTok, that can kind of be awash, and get lost in that.

And then it is, in my opinion, like very, very, very cool to find other musicians to connect with. So I think that that has been fun lately is like leaning into more music-specific stuff, then teacher stuff. And I know my students, I’ll watch it.

So every once in a while, you know, it’ll almost be something educational for them. If I’m talking about music stuff in a silly way, on TikTok, and use a specific hashtag to the audience that I think that TikTok would do well with. So my following is kind of a mix, I still will be posting and if that grows my account, that’s awesome. If my account stays stagnant, but the same people are consistently joining my content. That’s also awesome.

CHELSEA: That is and where do you come up with the inspiration that you come up with? Because you have so many creative things. I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I love this. And how would you think of this organically? Where do those inspirations come from?

KATHERINE: So there are always trends going on? Audios that are popular or you know, dances or putting your spin on a specific sort of scenario. There’s the how things would walk trend going on right now. And which is just so silly, but I did it with music notation.

So just taking whatever’s going on and focusing it on for music, or sometimes coming up with an original idea. I try to not put pressure on how often I post because I just want it to be like, if I think of something funny, then I’ll post something funny.

And if I don’t think of something funny that day, I’m not gonna post anything. So I don’t put any pressure. That’s probably why my account hasn’t grown as much as no pressure to like, do the same sort of thing consistently all the time. And just doing something when I think of it, and every once in a while, the internet thinks it’s funny.

CHELSEA: That’s awesome and do you plan? Do you continue to think about having more of an online presence doing more things online has this kind of opened a box for you where you’re like, Oh, look at all these things that I could do?

KATHERINE: I do feel that way. I have another phone call later today with a friend and mentor who’s been a big presence in the choir, social media place for a while, and we’re just going to talk about some ideas we have. And I don’t have a huge audience.

But I think that some of the people I reach especially music ed students during COVID, it’s just been a cool way to see that people just need that motivation and need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is, for me, it doesn’t feel like a light, right?

Teaching in a pandemic online is not the dream, but I am real about it. I am in my social media presence, and I’m honest about it. And I do find really good moments throughout and try to share that. And I think that that has helped me connect with a lot, a lot of people, a lot of really, really amazing educators and future educators.

And so I think that it’s something I’m going to keep up with; it’s never the center of my focus. But it has benefits and I’m enjoying it. So I think for as long as I’m enjoying it.

I’ll keep posting TikTok and reels and answering music major DM’s on Instagram. 

CHELSEA: That’s awesome and do you have any fun stories of maybe some embarrassing moments or maybe seven video flops?

I know you shared about the first one that you ended up having to take down but do you have any sort of stories like that for people that maybe haven’t put themselves out there.

I think that they enjoy hearing like it’s not always going to be perfect or other things like that to give them a little sense of reality and a little more confidence too if they feel encouraged or inspired to do the same thing. 

 

KATHERINE: Yeah, absolutely. So not every video is going to do well. And I could do something that I think is funny and then end up taking it down or deciding that I’m just going to private it or whatnot. A lot of times, I’m on the fence, I will send it to a friend and say, like, is this the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen?

Or should I post it? And I have had friends tell me like, I think that might be the dumbest thing that you’ve ever done. So if you have those friends who will be honest with you and not cross the line, because TikTok, it feels like such a weird alternate space. But when you’re using it as sort of quasi-professional.

You don’t want to. I mean, I would never talk about certain topics, but some people just do things that are so weird. And if that video happened to do well, and then I noticed the video who did or the girl who did like x weird thing on TikTok, right?

So I just tried to be mindful. And know that my students are going to watch it and all that sort of thing. But definitely, I’ve had ones where I thought it was such a good idea. And then I go to start filming it.

And it just was not funny, or it didn’t work, or I’ll film part of something in public and someone will like to make fun of me for filming a TikTok in public.

CHELSEA: Nice, we appreciate you and everything that you’re doing on social media platforms. I know, for me, it’s helpful because I’m like, Okay, I’m not alone. There’s a lot of I’m friends with a lot of opera singers, and it just doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of that going on.

But then I look at music education, music educators, and I’m like, okay, there’s, there’s more of this than that. I see you. And I’m like, Okay, I’m all right, I’m totally fine.

So I appreciate you making me feel like I have some backup. And like, I’m not alone, on the internet and everything. So thank you so much, Katherine, for joining us today.

Is there anything more that you want people to know about you or any messages that you have for our audience? 

KATHERINE: Thank you so much for having me on. I think just remember that the season we’re in right now is temporary and that we can find ways to make music and to bring joy into each other’s lives, throughout all of this.

So I think that we have found each other’s accounts. And that has been a sort of source of joy for both of us. And they’re just ways to make the best of what’s going on right now in the world.

So hang in there, everybody.

CHELSEA: Awesome. Thank you so much, Katherine. 

CHELSEA: Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I hope that you enjoyed it and learned something.

Don’t forget to like it and subscribe to the channel.

I post new videos every Wednesday and a new podcast every Friday.

Thanks!

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