Karen Paciuc has been a important influence for the development of our teachers in this statewide association. She is another teacher who belongs to more than one local association, contributing significantly to both. She served for four years as the Vice President for Programs with DAMTA and currently serves as Vice President for Student Activities with AMTA. We thank her for her continued volunteering service with CSMTA teachers. We are so thankful that Mexico sent us a wonderful family with talented teachers. Here is her story: BACKGROUND STORY My husband and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We were both born in Mexico City from immigrant parents and grandparents. We had lived there for most of our lives when, in 2010 my husband was offered a one-year visiting professor position in Denver. We took the offer thinking we would be back to our treasured routines in twelve months. When my husband’s job offer was extended, our two sons, then 12 and 15, didn’t want to leave Denver. Although they had struggled to adjust the first couple of months, they were now fascinated by the outdoors, the cross country team, the baseball team, the academically inspiring school, and the kind friends that welcomed them.
We decided to stay in Colorado. I had a large music studio in Mexico. I taught piano, early childhood music initiation, and music appreciation to teens and adults. I also worked as Musical Advisor for the National Institute for Fine Arts (INBAL). My main job at the INBAL was coordinating the development of music curricula for different schools: professional music schools, music programs at K-12 schools, grad school, diplomas, and other specific programs, like designing the academic courses offered at the Fonoteca Nacional (the National Music Archive). One of the most rewarding experiences I had was guiding a music school in Tlahuitoltepec Mixe (a village in the Sierra Mixe mountains of Oaxaca) through the process of structuring their musical program in order to be recognized by the national authorities and thus allowing their students to have an official certification for their studies. Unlike many other indigenous communities, this town has a large population of teens and young people, and I strongly believe that it is their involvement in the music school that has kept the musical program there. Instead of migrating to big cities, young adults have a purpose in this rural community and, as musicians, they are a big part of the social fabric. I loved working with them and it fills me with joy to see that, after over 15 years, the music conservatory keeps growing and thriving. When we moved to Denver I did not have a plan for myself. My focus was on my family and the new environment. I hadn’t thought of when I would resume teaching piano. When I started, I was pretty open minded, taking a few students from people I had just met. I began teaching at my students’ homes because I hadn’t shipped my piano yet. There were several advantages: parents were always present, even if they didn’t sit down at the lesson. We always had a couple of minutes to chat about progress and assignments. I could see where the students practiced, and they couldn’t say “I forgot my books.” I could arrive and leave on time (No children arriving early to my home or being picked up late.) More members of the family would get involved and take lessons. I didn’t have to worry about clearing my entryway from the snow (something completely new to me). Very slowly, I started getting referrals and my studio began growing. HERE and NOW After 10 years, I currently have around 35 students of all ages and levels, representing a wide variety of musical goals. I have students who regularly participate in exams and competitions. Some students have expressed that they can only sit at the piano one hour a week, but they enjoy the lessons and want to keep playing piano. I appreciate all different approaches to making music, and as long as the expectations match the level of commitment, the lesson can flow very nicely. I also enjoy teaching piano in Spanish. I have some students who are learning the language or whose parents are bilingual. They value the opportunity to immerse in this language. In Spanish, the notes are named Do-Re-Mi…, not A-B-C. When I began teaching piano in Spanish, I faced the problem that it didn’t make sense to translate the note-letters because there is no musical system that will call them that way in Spanish. If I taught my students with Do, Re, Mi, the music classes they might have at school would not be able to complement the piano lesson, nor vice versa. So, after not finding any research on this, I decided to speak in Spanish, but to speak the musical terms in English (with my best possible accent). I tell my students that different countries have different ways of naming the notes, and that “we’re going to speak in Spanish, but I’ll name the notes in English so that they match what you hear in school”. I use this same approach for many other musical terms, like measure, bar line, clef signs, rhythmic values, etc. It has worked very well. Children understand easily. We have the lesson in Spanish and every time there’s a new musical term I introduce it in both languages and then we keep saying it in English. I am very satisfied with what my studio looks like today, and I am grateful for the students I have and the trust the parents have placed in me. DAMTA and AMTA I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the Music Teachers Associations. It was my good fortune that when I moved to Denver, one of the first teachers I met was a kind, selfless and admirable piano teacher. A friend in common had put us in contact and she called soon after and told me “If you’re a piano teacher you need to come to DAMTA with me”. She picked me up and took me to a DAMTA meeting and program. A new world opened for me. I hadn’t been a part of such an association before, as there are no teacher associations for private instrument teachers in Mexico. I met wonderful people and was fascinated with the different monthly programs. It was a real discovery. I was used to figuring everything out by myself; reflecting about each lesson and each student; writing down what had gone right, or what needed improvement; talking with colleagues only occasionally, and then reading, reading, and reading some more. But here at DAMTA all I needed to do was show up. I learned that inspiration didn’t need to always come from within, it could also come from outside. Just by showing up I was constantly refreshing my knowledge and my motivation. I could talk to peers about the concerns we have in common, the challenges we face and the different approaches we use to tackle them. Many times we would just talk about everything else and drink coffee. The close relationships we’ve built at DAMTA go beyond the profession we share. After a couple of years I was graciously invited to volunteer as Vice President for programs. Every year DAMTA holds a Fall Course made up of seven sessions on a specific topic, and a Spring Program that is a monthly session from January through April. The topics include technology, business management, marketing, pedagogy, creativity, repertoire, anything that can be of interest to our varied and rich teacher community. I served four years and met the most wonderful people. I am still amazed at the amount of talent living here in Colorado. We have university faculty, performers, private studio teachers, grade school teachers, composers, and music therapists. Every single person has a lot to offer and is willing to do so. VP for programs represents a lot of work, but it is very easy to find presenters who are knowledgeable and also eager to share their expertise. After volunteering for teacher programs with DAMTA, I am currently Vice-President for Student Activities at AMTA. It is not uncommon for teachers around here to belong to more than one local association. We like to share our findings and experiences and we complement each other very well. What I like the most about this position is to see the love that teachers have for their profession and their students. They will stop at nothing to provide performance opportunities for them. Among the students activities we hold are monthly recitals, student achievement day, composition festival, “four forms” festival, and for 2020 of course, You Tube, drive-thru, Zoom, and “on the porch” recitals. The support I’ve received from the music teachers associations was even more appreciated during 2020. Everywhere I looked there was a course being offered, and every single teacher was selflessly sharing guidance on how to switch to virtual lessons.