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This Classical Teacher’s Secret Identity

Augustine School Blog

This Classical Teacher’s Secret Identity

By Alyssa Marshall

Who taught you that music can be beautiful? I cannot remember learning that. No one taught me to listen to music or to let it take me to other places in my mind and heart. If music played, I was drawn to listen. When I was six years old and my mother put Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite on the stereo, no one prompted me to dance around the house dramatically. No one explained the musical dynamics to me; no one had to tell me, “This part sounds sad, and this part is more joyful.” As I danced, I wore the proper expressions on my face without knowing how or why. How magical music seems as I think back on some of the first times it moved me! Why did it move me at such a young age, when by that point I had experienced relatively little?

The only satisfying explanation I can find is that music is a beautiful creation offered freely to us by God, and He has instilled in each person an innate understanding of its truth, goodness and beauty. The gift of music allows us to worship Him!  “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth (Psalm 98:4-9a).

My Secret Identity

I did not ultimately pursue my love of dancing to music, but instead spent years refining my God-given knack for singing. I’m not sure how many Jacksonians are aware of my musical history. Until I moved to West Tennessee three years ago, my whole identity was SINGER. I studied opera performance for six years and have a Master of Music degree from Temple University in Philadelphia. I have performed on stages in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, California, and even Italy! During those years I studied several languages, was able to travel quite a bit, resigned myself to a LOT of rehearsing, and generally worked very hard for little pay to be able to keep sharing beautiful music.

It was my belief then that I could do nothing else as an occupation. Sure, God granted me with vocal skills, but I would not be able to excel at anything else. Would you like to re-read that last sentence and laugh at how contradictory the clauses are? Thankfully, amazingly, mercifully, the Holy Spirit did a great work in me in 2013 and by and by, led me to Augustine School in 2015. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (Psalm 51:10-13).” (I love sharing my testimony in full, but it deserves its own blog post.)

Learning From The Lord

The Lord is still teaching me that with Him I can excel at many things, and one of them happens to be teaching 4th graders! But what about my singing? Were those years of pursuing music all for naught? By no means! God is able to use that time for His good, and my study of music has positively affected my teaching at Augustine in many ways. 

My work with music helps me to promote diligence, teamwork, and the idea that things worth pursuing require patient training. It fosters robust life and drama in ALL the subjects I teach, such as History, Literature and Grammar (yes, Grammar!) Most importantly, the music I find within my students continually reminds me how the Lord has uniquely gifted each of His children. 

My work with music helps me to promote diligence, teamwork, and the idea that things worth pursuing require patient training. It fosters robust life and drama in ALL the subjects I teach, such as History, Literature and Grammar (yes, Grammar!) Most importantly, the music I find within my students continually reminds me how the Lord has uniquely gifted each of His children.

I was once a young girl spinning around the room to Tchaikovsky, not knowing what the future held- blissfully unaware of the hardships and joys to come. I want to celebrate that special season of life in my students and, on this side of the dance, I want to foster the unique and innate loves that I see in their hearts-looking for the future doctors, historians, mamas, park rangers, mathematicians, and maybe even a singer or two.

While many may think there wouldn’t be time for such pursuits in a modern American classroom with standardized test scores to chase and textbooks to hurry through, I have found that these pursuits are in fact central in the framework of classical, Christian education. In addition to gains in grammar and math and history, I get to (and am expected to) play the music and encourage the dance. At Augustine School, my job is to nurture and encourage those God-given gifts within each of my students, and for that I feel truly blessed.

1Comment
  • Jennifer Wilson
    Posted at 10:48h, 14 November Reply

    I love this and would appreciate the chance to hear more of your story sometime. I love that you do look for and encourage the unique gifts of each of your students. Your story explains some of why you do that so well.

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