Posted by: benfrasier | November 2, 2004

Mr. X

So last week I was working at the Young Library (where I’m typing this post from), and a man (we’ll call him Mr. X since I never caught his name) came by wanting to look at some past issues of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. X was probably in his mid 30s and is from somewhere in the middle-east. This fellow was pretty nosy and kept asking me lots of questions. Eventually he discovered that I graduated last May and am now a music major. When he asked why I made this decision I jokingly responded, “I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life in a cubicle crunching numbers.” But I also truthfully mentioned that I also rediscovered my passion for music and teaching.

Hold up….

Before we continue you need to understand that most people usually react positively when I tell them my story. People seemed to be surprised that I’m willing to go back to school to end up in a job that will pay much less than most accounting positions. But they are usually impressed that I’m willing to follow my passion and normally offer some encouragement. (not trying to brag, just trying to be honest)

Back to the story…

This man responded, “Ah… passion… I’ve heard this word used too much.” He then went on a long tirade about how people my age don’t know what the word passion means. He claimed to be from the “financial world,” and he even claimed to have saved up money to build a school (of course I have no way of finding out if his claim is true because he never mentioned any specifics).

(wow this blog is getting long)

Here is what he said, “When I saved up my money I thought I had a passion for teaching. But I learned there was more to teaching than teaching. I had to deal with parents, students who didn’t want to come, and teachers who complained often. But even through all of that, I still have a passion for teaching. You (pointing his finger at me) don’t know what passion is. Passion for you can change just like people who fall in and out of love. But there is one thing that doesn’t change. A dollar is always a dollar.”

He then briefly tried to persuade me to go back to the accounting field; however, our conversation was cut short because I had to help another patron. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any chance to defend myself. (which probably would not have done any good)

Obviously, my first reaction was to be ticked off that he had the nerve to lecture me shortly after meeting me for the first time. It also peeved me that he strongly discriminated me by the basis of my age. But I think I was actually more intrigued by his audacity to state his opinion so strongly than any amount of anger I possessed. I was motivated to listen because I’m very confident in my decision to go back to school and everything he was stating was in total contradiction with my beliefs.

(I didn’t know I could type this much)

I decided to go back to school the summer before my (first) senior year at UK. That summer was full of recruiting visits with accounting firms. I was on track to begin a respectable white collar career that would lead to endless opportunities in the business world. However, I never really found a sense of purpose or motivation for continuing with that path. There are many benefits for a career as a C.P.A.: nice salary, constant opportunities for other high paying jobs, and higher status in society. But none of those incentives really motivated me. Thankfully, my uncle asked me to work his band camp at Caverna High School that summer, and I accepted. (I know its tempting but please revert from thinking about any American Pie jokes)

That experience opened my eyes to a sense of purpose that I had never felt. It was my first experience as a formal music teacher, and I learned that I had a power to be a powerful influence on my students.

To illustrate, I’ll tell you about Connie who played the clarinet. She was a fine clarinet player but she was very timid and self conscious. She would never play loud enough because she was afraid of making a mistake. During one rehearsal I told her, “You have a great sound, I just need to hear more of it.” That little comment made a world of difference in her. She immediately sat up a little taller, and played with more confidence than I had ever heard.

(wow, I might have to charge admission for this blog)

I didn’t have any special powers or abilities that made her play better. All I did was encourage her with a single comment, and she believed in herself little more. At that point I realized that music educators could do more than simply teach music, but they can make a difference in someone’s life that goes beyond any recital or concert. That purpose is what motivated me to go back to school and become a music teacher.

Mr. X I know I don’t have a complete understanding of how the world works. I might be idealistic and overly optimistic, but I’m pretty sure that whatever small difference I can make in a students life is worth more than any dollar I’ll earn. And that small difference isn’t susceptible to inflation rates.



  1. Well you know what, I found something wrong with a statement. “But there is one thing that doesn’t change. A dollar is always a dollar.” thats no true at all, the value of the dollar changes everyday! well it will be a dollar but it could have the value of a quarter.

    but off that sub. I don’t see what Mr.X problem is but I respect you for your choice to go for a career you’ll love and be awesome at, rather then one you won’t have “passion” for, and be miserable everyday. And I don’t this Mr.X knows what a passion is. Passion isn’t the amount of money your going to get every week for doing something. Passion in this case is waking up every morning and being happy that your going to do what you love.

    You know who Mr.X reminds me of?

    Your dad, I remember when you decided on all this and he was like why would you want to do something that you wont get paid much for. And all that, im sure you remember all it. But as far as I remember your mom supported you with it. Cause she knew how you felt. And I remember that when you told me about it. I knew what you meant, cause I understood exactly what you were talkin about. Ive just been lucky that the career Ive always wanted to go into was a very well payin field, but even if it wasnt Id still want to do it regardless of pay.

    But I think you made the right desicion. And I know you’ll be an awesome band director! I hope my kid can be in your band. DRUMLINE!!!!!

  2. I love reading *genuine* blog material. Follow your dreams! ::cheesy thumbs up:: You go boy!


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