2017 Success Stories: Keeping music in the classroom

Joel Hamilton earns master’s degree at BGSU to better educate his students

By Bob Cunningham

When Joel Hamilton majored in music education at Morehead State University, he envisioned being a music teacher as a way to put food on the table; he didn’t want to be a starving artist.

Now, 14 years later, he has a different point of view — and a passion for teaching.

“Little did I know that’s what I should have been doing in the first place,” said Hamilton, choral director at Perrysburg Junior High School. “I love teaching and I love working with the kids, and to see them grow as individuals and as musicians is priceless. I love what I do because I don’t consider it work. I get to sing, I get to dance, and I get to play the piano every day of my life. I don’t know many people who go to work every day and listen to music for six to seven hours and watch kids have a good time.

“Not that it’s not work, but the rehearsal process and all of that stuff is fun to me; it’s exciting. Every day provides something different because every song provides something different.”

Hamilton is graduating with a Master of Music with a Teaching Artistry Specialization from Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts with the intention of taking what he has learned in the program and incorporating it into the classroom.

“I had been out of college for almost 14 years and was looking for something to refresh some ideas and make my classroom a better place for my students,” he said. “You work for so long you get in your own little bubble and you get comfortable. If you push yourself to the limits and exceed those boundaries, why not try to see what else is happening out there? Maybe there’s something that can make your life a little easier in the classroom as far as rehearsals go?

“Coming back and seeing what’s out there was a huge push for me. Technology has changed a lot of things for the better, especially in music. Plus, It’s good to have that feedback from the rest of the cohort as well.”

The Teaching Artistry Specialization program is an online degree at BGSU designed to meet the growing demand of practitioners currently employed in the teaching profession who desire a path to continue development of their current skills, gain new skills and insight into the profession and deepen their knowledge of pedagogy. Through the use of mentor teachers, faculty committees, individualized and group instruction and faculty-driven curricular benchmarks, students gain important pedagogical skills that can be implemented immediately in their own careers.

Hamilton said the main focus was his master’s project, a toolbox for the changing male adolescent voice.

“We had to do a full-length project throughout the entire program, and we started that in the fall of last year,” he said. “I gleaned a lot of information from that project, working with boys’ changing voices. It’s going to have a huge impact on the fifth- through eighth-graders I teach. In a sense, I can see them completely transition from their treble voice all the way through to their ‘man voice,’ baritone, tenor, whatever it may be. That study alone was huge for me, and I chose it because I knew it would have a huge impact on my students. The information I learned from that research alone was immeasurable.”

Hamilton said the online format of the program with its flexibility proved to be vital.

“What’s nice about that is I’ve been in contact with a band director from Virginia during this whole process,” he said. “It’s so nice to a get different perspectives from different parts of the country.”

One member of the cohort happened to live closer than Hamilton ever could have imagined.

“There’s also a guy in my cohort from Maumee High School, so he’s local and actually lives around the corner from me,” he said. “We didn’t even realize how close we lived to each other until about six months into it. So, I’m getting access to people who not only have a different perspective on education but music education as well.”

Hamilton grew up in Rossford, just a 20-minute drive to Bowling Green, but he wanted to go away to college after high school. When he graduated from Morehead State, he taught in Newport, Tennessee, for five years. Then he got married and he and his wife moved to Perrysburg after having a baby to be close to family. He taught at Perrysburg and Bowling Green high schools before taking his current position.

“I’m in a great district,” he said. “We’re growing by leaps and bounds and the new facilities we have at Hull Prairie Intermediate School are just phenomenal. The music wing dominates that school. Our choir room can seat up to 115 students and the band room can seat up to 165 kids. It’s pretty sweet. It’s great to be in a community that supports the performing arts.”