Not Your Forte Podcast: A Guide to Keeping Music Ed Simple

By: Eric Tinkler

Senior in Music Education at Kansas State University.

Not Your Forte is a music education podcast that provides a resource for music education majors to better equip themselves for a successful undergraduate education. Hosted by Eric Tinkler, a senior in music education at Kansas State and Dr. Payne, the Music Education Chair at Kansas State, Not Your Forte covers a wide variety of topics ranging from tips for in the classroom to how to get your first job! Not Your Forte is your go-to place to make music education simple. New episodes come out every Friday, and you can find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, and more!

“Let’s Start a Podcast”

Not Your Forte podcast began in September of 2019 when I reached out to Dr. Payne with an idea to try and help out the collegiate music education community. The inspiration for this idea came from podcasts such as After Sectionals and Everything Band (which I highly recommend checking out). I thought to myself that while these are phenomenal resources available for music educators, the focus of these podcasts centered around people who were already teaching. I believed that this new podcast could help fill in that hole and provide a unique resource that would be easily available to consume for college students working to earn their degree. After a time of planning out episodes, acquiring the proper equipment, and learning the in’s and out’s of how to run a podcast, we released our first episode and haven’t looked back since.

As of May 29th, Not Your Forte currently spans two seasons and twenty-one episodes ranging from forty-five minutes to an hour-long. These episodes reflect the varied life that a college student deals with on a day to day basis. Episodes cover in-class topics such as Music Theory and Aural Skills; Professional Skills such as Interview Techniques and Leadership development; and Self-care topics with episodes dedicated to Mental Health, Organization, and other soft-skills.
Recently we wrapped up our month-long “Conducting Bootcamp” series. This series focused on various aspects of becoming a well-rounded conductor and educator on the podium. Our guests included K-State’s own Dr. Alex Wimmer and Dr. Frank Tracz along with educators from around the country that consisted of Dr. Onsby Rose, Diane Koutsulis, and Dr. Michael Raiber. This series contains some of my personal favorite episodes and a wealth of knowledge from these master educators.

Looking ahead, Dr. Payne and I are working on finalizing details for Season 3. Recording for season 3, will take place over this summer and, will kick off with a seven-part series on leadership development that will include guest appearances by Dr. Paula Crider, Scott Sheehan, Dr. Tim, and more! After that, we plan on continuing to provide quality content that I hope makes a real difference in helping music education students around the country. We all know the challenges that come with completing your music education degree, and at times it can seem overwhelming, but hopefully, Not Your Forte can help keep music education simple.

It’s a Learning Experience like no other!

When thinking about what I have learned about running a podcast, I can only think about a metaphor Dr. Payne uses to describe what we need to be as music educators. He always states that we need to be able to put on many different “hats” to be able to successfully balance all the needs of our students, our administration, and ourselves. In terms of running a podcast, I am going to describe some of the various hats that I have worn:

The “Planning” Hat:
This hat is probably one the most important for any content creator out there, whether it is a music education podcast or a big-screen movie. Throughout the process of learning how to wear my planning hat, I have learned a variety of lessons. The first few lessons consisted of communication, communication, and communication. For each episode, Dr. Payne and I need to be on the same page of what topic we want to cover, how we want to approach it when we can record, and more. Throw in a guest, and that adds yet another layer to the importance of communication. Through many mistakes early on, we have now settled into a groove that has allowed for a much easier time in the planning period. (Hint: it involves planning far in advance). This experience of planning will help me immensely when I begin to teach as I believe that in order to be a successful educator, you need to be organized and able to plan effectively to provide the best experience for your students.

The “Producer” Hat:
Honestly, when I started podcasting, I had absolutely none of the technical “know-how” needed to successfully produce a podcast. I did not know what microphones to use, how to effectively edit audio/video, or how to even get it uploaded to sites like Spotify or iTunes. My big takeaway is to not let a lack of knowledge scare you away from doing something that you want. I took the time to research mic equipment (always research before you buy) and learn the in’s and out’s of our recording software (GarageBand is where we started and is super easy to understand). This has resulted in a much better understanding of various audio/video aspects that will help me as a teacher, whether this is being able to produce a quality recording for my ensemble or teaching my students how to produce music on GarageBand.

The “College Student” Hat & the “Teacher” Hat:
When recording each episode, it is always important to focus on how this topic helps the college undergrad right now and how it can prepare them for their future of teaching. This means that as Dr. Payne and I are recording, we have to find a balance between our “college student” hat, and our “teacher” hat. As a senior going on my fifth year in music education, this balance can take place by thinking about what I wish I knew when I was an underclassman and what I think I should know as a soon to be teacher. I am extremely grateful to have such a wonderful mentor and co-host in Dr. Phillip Payne. While I can provide more immediate insight into how college students think today, he helps me think more like a teacher. Our conversational style podcasts help us both switch between these two hats. This flexibility taught me to always consider various viewpoints, regardless of the situation I am in.

The “Salesman” Hat:
Now that I have the episode recorded, I need to put on my “salesman” hat. Upon uploading the episode, I need to advocate for this product I have created and provided for the public. This includes a barrage of posts on social media that encourage people to check out the latest episodes, visit my website, share it with their friends, and review it. This also includes reaching out personally to educators from around the country to share what I am doing, why I am passionate about this, and how I think it will help their students. Even in writing this article right now, I am wearing this hat. The most important lesson that this hat teaches is to always be an advocate for yourself and what you believe in and provide the facts to back up why you believe in it. Not only is this for “selling” your podcast/content, but it can also be for selling the importance of music in your school to your administrator or community.

Music Education in 2020

The year 2020 has been filled with difficult challenges for those in music education. My heart yearns for the opportunity to meet once more in a classroom with my peers and to learn together. I miss sitting in an ensemble and forgetting about the problems outside of that rehearsal and just enjoying music. I am heart-broken for all who have had their last semester of college and graduation taken away by this world pandemic. I am upset for my friends, peers, future colleagues, and students who are treated unjustly because of the color of their skin.

Throughout the pandemic, Not Your Forte has worked on increasing our output and not only continuing to provide quality content but to press into some difficult realities. Once universities across the country were shutting down for the semester, we responded by focusing on how to succeed in an online learning environment as well as digging in on how to take care of yourself during the quarantine. The world of music education is a small one where you can reach out to educators from around the world and easily connect and dig into these hard topics to learn how they are approaching it and how we can move past it.  As we move into further seasons, we look to continue to invite guests of all backgrounds and experience to share a variety of unique viewpoints. We want to dig into topics that will help us become better students, better teachers, and better people.

“The pessimist sees the challenge in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every challenge.”
Winston Churchill

Final Thoughts
When I started this podcast, my goal was to provide a resource for my peers to help them make the most out of their time in college and avoid some of the mistakes I have made. What I have gotten out of this is far more. Through this podcast, I have been able to have in-depth conversations with educators from across the country. These conversations have taught me invaluable lessons that I can take with me into teaching. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Payne, someone who I not only value as a great teacher but now as a mentor and friend. Finally, I have learned that no matter what age you are, you can make an impact on this world if you actively believe you can. Whether an episode gets one download or hundreds of downloads, I know that if I can positively impact one person, I am succeeding in my goal.
As I wrap up, I would like to encourage you to check us out on wherever platform you use to listen to podcasts. You can also find us on Youtube as well for video content. Also, check out our social media pages (linked below) to continue to receive all updates and additional content! If you have any more questions or want to suggest topics for us to cover, email us at Stay tuned as Season 3 kicks off June 19th with Dr. Matthew Arau of Lawrence University talking about the importance of being a proactive leader!

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