What is relationship-based education?
“All the things you hear and learn and suffer and make. Music is a thrifty bit of magic; it finds a way to make everything in you useful.”
Our new music teacher, a legit hip hop artist, was unable to be at school for the first two weeks of school. The kids enrolled in music class were really excited to start making music together, but, instead, they were stuck with the Head of School as a substitute. It had been a crazy busy morning for me and it was a beautiful day outside, so I decided to take the class for a walk and talk. We ended up at a local coffee shop. I paid the tab for some warm caffeinated drinks and we all sat together to talk about our experiences as musicians and what we wanted from the class.
Each student shared about what music means to them and the ways in which they have written and/or performed music. The trombone their parents insisted they try and how it fell by the wayside due to lack of interest. The upright bass that feels “groovier” than the electric. The super cool computer software they use for writing and recording. The confession from a senior boy, “I only joined chorus in middle school to meet girls.”
I told them what I know after a lifetime of making music, in school and as an adult. None of it gets wasted. All your experiences. All the things you hear and learn and suffer and make. Music is a thrifty bit of magic; it finds a way to make everything in you useful.
As we were wrapping up, a student asked me, “What do you envision for our school music program?”. “This.”, I answered. “We haven’t even started doing music yet!”, he responded incredulously. “Let me explain…” I began.
I want our music program at September School to be what all of our programs are: a place for young people to be seen and heard. A place that provides all the tools you need to go on and create a life uniquely yours. A place where the connection to others inspires you to go out and make a more connected world. A place where teachers listen to students in a way that makes them want to speak their truth.
I told the students in that coffee shop that music is, above all, self-expression. I want to create a music program that empowers and equips them to say what they have to say. These incredible young people are exactly where they should be. They have valuable things to say. And while ten years from now, they may have skills and abilities to make better music, they will never be better at being the selves they are today. There is no magic moment when we are good enough or talented enough or trained or educated enough to speak our lives out into the world.
Students at September School are enough right now, wherever they are at. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. I’m excited to watch them grow as musicians and artists. It is my privilege to help create and support the space where we all learn to be. Together.
Kelly Molinet is the Head of School and Executive Director at September School. Kelly earned a BFA in Art History and Music from Syracuse University. She began a lifelong career in education working with urban youth at the Rescue Mission.