The e-Portfolio of
Michael Thom
Music Educator

Michael Thom

I was raised primarily in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the community of Castleton, although I was born in Southern California. In high school and college, my father played several instruments, primarily trombone, French horn, string bass, bassoon, and percussion. He was, in fact, a music education major at UCLA in the early 1970s, but, before graduating, transferred to Grace College, where he met my mother. Today, he still plays trombone. He and I both have played in the symphony orchestra and brass ensemble at our church in Indianapolis. I only have one sibling – a sister who is a very accomplished French horn player.

One of the best musical experiences I have ever had occurred my sophomore year of high school, when I was selected to play in the Bands of America Honor Band of America. That ensemble was, very possibly, the highest-caliber band of which I have been a part. I had a terrific experience being around great players and working with the outstanding conductor. However, my most remarkable musical experience occurred each year of high school; each year, I auditioned for, and was accepted to, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Side-By-Side program. I not only was able to play alongside some of the best high school players from Indiana, but I got to play alongside the professional musicians from the orchestra. I absolutely love most of the orchestral repertoire, so it was always an absolutely amazing experience. In addition to these musical experiences, I also was fortunate enough to enjoy some competitive success through our high school music program. This success would include our wind ensemble’s state championships (two), our orchestra’s state championship (in only our director’s third year at our school), and, most significantly, our marching band’s state and national championships (one each).

My desire to teach stemmed from many sources. First of all, once I started to think about college, I realized that I really had been blessed with the ability to communicate with others. At that point, my only teaching experiences had been in informal settings, such as helping classmates during band class. I also had opportunities to do some structured teaching during three summers at a middle school in my township as well as at The Performing Arts Institute in Indianapolis, all of which helped confirm my interest in, and desire to further pursue, a career in teaching.

My relationship with three teachers is the other important factor. Two of these are my fiancée’s parents, who I have known since 1998. They are both music teachers in Washington Township in Indianapolis. They have shared a lot of stories from and insight into their jobs, which have helped me to better understand the teaching profession. The other significant influence is my high school head band director, Randy Greenwell. Aside from being a terrific musician and band director, he’s a true educator and great human being. We have talked many times about my future and the music education field in general. He guided me through a lot of the thinking and preparation that I did to attend Ball State and study music education. Mr. Greenwell also gave me several opportunities, while still a high school student, to run low-brass or all-brass sectional rehearsals.

I would consider Randy Greenwell one of the best all-around role models for me. A good teacher must, first and foremost, be able to treat his or her students in a professional, respectful way while at the same time demanding their respect and commanding discipline. A careful balance ensures a comfortable and fun working environment for both the students and the teacher. Secondly, the teacher must certainly have an excellent knowledge of his or her field. Thus, once the teacher has the students’ attention, he or she can then teach them something accurate and valuable. Finally, a love for students and a love for teaching complete the make-up of a good teacher.

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