Is Everyone Replaceable?

By Tim Lautzenheiser

We’ve heard it time-and-time again, “Everyone is replaceable!”  Really?  You can replace a POSITION, but can you replace a PERSON(ality)?

If there was *ever* a profession where THE PERSON overshadowed THE POSITION, we could easily point to music education as the best example to challenge the aforementioned adage.  The vast majority of the people reading this article are doing so because of A MENTOR, A TEACHER, A DIRECTOR…A PERSON!  (There certainly are exceptions, but – by definition – that’s WHY they are exceptions in the first place.)  

My guess is, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./Professor Whomever had a profound influence on your life, to the point you chose to pursue “teaching music” as your vocational highway.  In many cases the trust relationship that was created-and-nurtured has continued long after elementary school,  middle-school, high school, college, and throughout your teaching career (and even retirement!).  Is that person replaceable?

It’s always so interesting to hear the heroes/icons in our profession talk about their own influential music educators.  They will reminisce about Mrs. Smith or Dr. Jones; rarely do they identify him/her by first name.  There is a sense of sacred honor about the student-mentor relationship that prevents the casualness of addressing the teacher as: Sarah, Bill, Stan, Betsy, etc.  It just wouldn’t feel right; in fact, it would borderline on inappropriate.  No doubt we all have had our music mentors make the following request: “Please, we’re now colleagues.  Call me by my first name.”  …and after a few awkward tries, we abandoned the effort and choose to return to the familiar title showing our respect and appreciation to them for being who they are and the vital role they play(ed) in our lives.  Are these people replaceable? 

Personal story: After graduating from college, the excitement of *finally-and-officially* being a band director was absolutely beyond measure.  Not only did I want to fulfill (and exceed) the expectations of all those who “took a chance” on “a rookie teacher,” but it was equally as important to not disappoint my hero-director.  

The first convention-time together I had with him (now as colleagues), I said, “Mr. Dunn, would you…,” he interrupted me, “Timmer, we’re fellow music teachers, please call me Earl.”  WHAT?!  Was I dreaming?  As he patiently waited for me to utter his first name, I found myself in shock, confused, unknowing, taken aback, speechless,  and – quite honestly – hesitant to comply to his request.  

Finally, I mustered-up the courage to say,  “Mr. Dunn, I always want you to be my go-to-source; it far overshadows anything else in our relationship.  I want to be able to call you for advice, share my successes and ask for help when I stub-my-toe.  I’m sorry sir, but you will always be MR. DUNN to me,”  and he was…and he will be forever.  Is he replaceable?  Absolutely NOT!

As we all (students, directors, parents, administrators) sail these uncharted waters during this indescribable time in history, our students are desperately seeking a lifeline of security; someone they know they can count on to provide a safe-challenging-encouraging “culture of excellence,” a place where they can SURVIVE and THRIVE; where they feel secure-in-knowing their positive welfare is at the forefront of the mission-at-hand.  

Might I suggest, for many of these young hearts-’n-minds it is: THE REHEARSAL ROOM where they connect with their MUSIC FAMILY, a climate that provides support and love to reassure everyone: WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER:  One for all, and all for one.  Who *is* that someone who will lead them through this turbulent times?  It’s YOU, their music teacher, someone who is NOT replaceable.

If there was ever a time our young performers need a leader who will be there for them (regardless of how this pandemic plays out), it is NOW.  While all educators have the opportunity to shepherd their own students to more favorable learning landscapes, the music educator stands solidly at the top of the list as “the chosen one” for so many.  The one, if you will, who is NOT replaceable.

…let the music begin…

Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser began his teaching career at Northern Michigan University. He then moved to the University of Missouri, and from there to New Mexico State University. During that time, Tim developed highly acclaimed groups in both instrumental and vocal music.

In 1981, he created Attitude Concepts for Today, Inc., an organization designed to manage the many requests for teacher inservice workshops, student leadership seminars, and convention speaking engagements focusing on the area of effective leadership training.  He is a nationally recognized voice touting the importance of arts education for every child.

Tim presently serves as Senior Vice President of Education/Chief Education Officer for Conn-Selmer, Inc.  He is also co-writer of popular band method, “Essential Elements,” and he has authored multiple best-selling books published by GIA. Inc.

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