Conducting My Life: Life Lessons from a High School Music Teacher by Paul D. Everts
Paul Everts is a brave man. In CONDUCTING MY LIFE: LIFE LESSONS FROM A HIGH SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER, the author tells the story of his journey as a high school conductor. Be forewarned: this is a tough story of what life is really like holding the baton. It’s a story of a TON of hard work, with lots of criticism and attacks, with occasional accolades.
The whole time I was reading this book, I was thinking, “Who in their right mind would want this job?” To be a high school band director, you would have to be insane, or insanely dedicated. Well, after reading this book, I’m pretty sure it’s the second option. The author explains that his goal was always clear: “I have wanted to be a high school music teacher. I have never wanted to be anything else.”
I was astonished at what Paul had to go through. Yes, there were petty parents, which I knew was par for the course. But it went a lot further than that. Some parents were not just petty—they were violent! In one case, the author actually had to hide in the choir room from one father who thought the author was “picking on my son.” (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t.)
The verbal abuse was similarly intense at times. Early in his career, one rehearsal went badly, with “kids walking off the field during a rehearsal, telling me to “f*** off!” Hmmm. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the author had in mind when he envisioned his dream job.
Of course, the story is not all bad, The author also recounts times where the administration or parents really appreciated all the hard work, and the awards given.
There are funny parts as well. The author naively thought that “Visiting a Mormon Temple would have been something very positive culturally for our students.” So he had the bus drive up to a local temple. The church elders had to explain to Paul that they didn’t offer tours of their sacred site for high school kids.
So all in all, I found CONDUCTING MY LIFE to be a fascinating, yet sober read. It was tough reading about the carping and complaining directed against the author. Some fellow teachers and even “boosters” seemed to hold a grudge against him, and made it clear they “were watching him,” ready to take him down if possible. He also had to endure a false accusation from a student, who was later proven to be lying.
My favorite part of the book was Paul’s time at “Kilarney High School.” Sounds like a wonderful town.
Yes, it was all worth it.