Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life Changing Moments

I remember the day so clearly. You’d think it was a major life event like the day I first laid eyes on my future husband or the day we found out we were expecting. No, it wasn't one of those life events, but it did end up eventually changing my life in a very unexpected way. It was the day a friend and fellow music teacher introduced me to Activate!

We had just finished a department meeting in my classroom when she pulled out a couple issues of the music education magazine exclaiming how unique and useful this new publication was. She was clearly impressed, and I valued her opinion. I asked to see a copy and quickly thumbed through it, noting the diversity of contributors. I loved that it actually included lesson plans and had a CD with choral accompaniments. Being a stickler for copyright, I was also excited to see that the magazine included lots of reproducible pages including student vocal scores and lyrics pages for the choral selections, as well as some clever pencil-to-paper worksheets. I asked my friend how she found the magazine and within 24 hours had signed up for a subscription. This is noteworthy because I am one of those people who tend to take their time in purchasing anything. Not only did I make the purchase quickly, but I used my own money because I wanted to make sure that this resource was mine to keep no matter where my future would take me.

Over the next few years, I looked forward to each and every issue arriving in my mailbox. Sure, there were some issues that were terrific and a few that were not so great for me, but overall I was impressed, and my students were reaping the benefits of a lot of new lessons, music, teaching strategies, and activities without me spending a lot of time and money to attend workshops or search the internet for new lesson plans. Activate! became a huge time-saver for me. In fact, a large chunk of my master’s work referenced the lessons and information on Carnival and the music of Brazil published in the February/March 2007 issue.

Not too long after completing my master’s degree, we were informed that my husband’s job was being transferred, and that we would be moving. I was excited for the change, but devastated to lose the almost nine-years of work I had done in my district, not to mention the terrific students, parents, and colleagues. I would be starting over, completely.

The move came up fast, and before I knew it, I was looking for jobs in the middle of the school year. Thankfully, I found a wonderful long-term sub position. I brought my copies of Activate! with me to my new district and enthusiastically shared them with all my new music teacher friends. My sub position was very unique and left me with some pretty big chunks of time, which I used to search for a permanent position closer to my new home. I was sitting in the music office, (which was actually a converted practice room off what should have been one of the most awesome music classrooms every constructed, but, of course, it had been taken over by a fourth grade class when the school exceeded anticipated occupancy) when another life-changing moment hit me; I saw the posting for an editorial position with the publishers of Activate!, Heritage Music Press. I loved the product and the job description was exciting. I quickly dashed off an email to my husband with a link to the posting, and asking him if he thought I should go for it (since it would require some travel and a change of careers). He responded quickly, and I started filling out the application.

About three months later, I found myself sitting in Kris Kropff’s office, the first editor and brain behind Activate!, learning how to publish a magazine. It was so overwhelming and so much fun! I got to cherry-pick my favorite choral works and lessons and piece them together to help other music teachers bring the joy of music to children across the country. I wanted to create the ultimate resource for new and experienced teachers, and I had so many resources at my fingertips and an assignment to go out and seek the best and brightest music educators in the country and get them to write for us.

I've been doing that ever since, and every issue of Activate! is a labor of love. (And let me tell you, there is a lot of labor and love there!) I strive to make every issue of Activate! as user-friendly, comprehensive, and useful as possible. Our lesson plans cover most of the major pedagogical approaches out there and we are always bringing in new contributors with new ideas (including assessment indicators and more clearly-stated objectives).

We still have a choral piece in every issue to help you plan for those concerts and keep costs down by allowing you to reproduce the scores, as well as including the performance and accompaniment tracks. Truly, if you were to purchase the octavos and audio tracks alone, it would be far more than a subscription. I also try to save you some precious time by typing out those lyric sheets and including all the visuals and manipulatives the teachers use in their lesson plans. (I know what it’s like, I was there once, too!)

With the birth of the interactive whiteboard, we now include interactive technology-based lessons in every issue along with articles to help you make the most of technology in the music room. These lessons have opened a whole new avenue for reaching our students. I hope you are enjoying them as much as I enjoy working with the team to bring them to you!

And, I can’t say enough about our wonderful lesson plans. I am so blessed to be able to work with so many outstanding educators. There are many times I find myself wishing I was still in a classroom so that I could teach these lessons to my students. They are just so much fun! Every lesson in Activate! is developed by a music educator, and almost all of them are right there with you in the trenches. (I’m one of the few exceptions, though I do get out and sub every now and again!)

I think it’s very rare to find a product that literally changes your life. And while Activate! has changed my life in far more dramatic ways than I suspect it may impact yours, I do hope that every issue brings you some new ideas and at least a little bit of the joy we hope to convey. I am always open for subscriber suggestions, and would love to hear from you!

Have there been any music-education products that have changed the way you plan or teach? Please, share your stories! You never know, it might just change someone’s life!


Jeanette attended Ithaca College, majoring in Music Education with voice as her primary instrument. While at Ithaca, she performed with the Women's Chorale under the direction of Janet Galván and was a founding member of the college's first women's a cappella group. She completed her Master of Education degree from Wayne State University while teaching elementary music in L'Anse Creuse Public Schools. In her more than eight years of teaching elementary music education, Jeanette was the writer and recipient of several educational grants, director of after school music clubs, and one of the directors in a district-wide choir. She has also taught Elementary Music Education: Methods and Assessments as an adjunct professor at Rochester Community College in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In 2008, Jeanette became editor of Activate!, a magazine for music educators, and in 2009, she accepted the position of Classroom Resources Editor for Heritage Music Press.

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