Unlocking Minds with Music Education
A dedicated performer discovers a love for teaching
Terry Eberhardt is a music teacher at Howard County Public Schools in Maryland. Terry had his sights set on being a performer coming out of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, but an influential teacher convinced him to work on and receive a parallel degree in education while simultaneously obtaining his degree in performance. The competitive world of auditions and performing live or in the studio turned out to be less than satisfying, so lucky for his students Terry fell back on his education degree and discovered a love for teaching. He is the classic example of the “accidental educator.”
Terry believes artists who are focused on performance are natural communicators, which, in most cases, makes them natural teachers. The inherent extroverted nature of a performer lends itself to the interactive skills necessary to sharing musical and artistic knowledge with students.
Terry believes music education is vitally important to education as a whole, as well as a general tool to engage students. After all, it was his personal experience of participating in musical activities that motivated him to keep his grades up in all areas of education. He now has the pleasure of sharing his knowledge with his students, and it has been highly successful. In fact, his efforts led to a 2014 semi-finalist nomination for the Music Educator of the Year GRAMMY award – a fitting tribute to such a fine educator.
Dr. Berger: Terry, it’s really nice to be spending some time with you today. I’m always fascinated in all the interviews that I’m lucky enough to do to hear the background story of what brings all of us to education.
Tell us a little bit about your personal path and how your path in education steered you towards music education as a profession.
Terry Eberhardt: I think I have a pretty interesting story! The fact is that I’ve always loved music and I’ve always fancied myself being a performer. I ended up going to a private high school and played percussion. I had a teacher who really steered me into education but I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to teach. I want to be a performer!”
But based on my interaction with him, I did a double degree in education and performance at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins. The whole time I was taking the education courses I was thinking, this is a fallback. It’s only a fallback. I’m going to be a performer. I’m going to be a performer.
I got out of school in four and a half years and did a whole bunch of auditions, and wasn’t really landing a ton of work so I was like, alright. Good thing I’ve got this teaching degree!
I taught for six months at an elementary school and I fell hard in love with it. And then I got a middle school job and I did that for four years.
While I was teaching middle school, I got asked to do a lot of performing. Crazily enough, I performed while teaching and decided, okay, I’ve got to try the performance thing again.
So I went back to school and got a masters in performance. Almost immediately in that Masters program, I realized that I really wanted to be a teacher.
I finished the masters in performance, and then I was fortunate enough to land a high school job where I got to open that school. I taught high school for nine years, and while I was doing that, I taught college for six years at Towson University.
That’s kind of how I got around to being an educator. I grew up with music in my life and I wanted to be able to share it and give it back to people like it was given to me.
DB: Terry, if we were to call you the “accidental educator” in the best possible way based on the path of how you got to where you are, how can we do a better job of identifying the next Terry Eberhardt? That young person, who is out there ─ whether it’s the arts or not ─ who has passions that if honed in a thoughtful, methodical, and organized way could help open their eyes to an opportunity within education?
To backup a little, I don’t think we do a very good job of saying to young people, “There are some incredible opportunities in education and lots of different roles