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Eric Whitacre’s “Teacher of the Week” – My Thoughts

On Saturday, as I was spending time with my soon-to-be four year-old daughter, celebrating at another four year-old’s birthday party, I briefly took out my phone (shame on me), and noticed that I was tagged in a Facebook post that mentioned Eric Whitacre had just named me “Teacher of the Week”. I clicked on the notification and saw this:


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Eric Whitacre
17 hrs
“Mr. Paltrowitz, or Pal as the POBJFKHS music department refers to him as, knows what he is doing. For nineteen years he has been developing a very strong and intelligent choral program within the school based on tradition, leadership, and dedication. I have never seen anything else like it in any other program. In addition to the teacher run choir program, he advises 8 student run A Cappella groups, where all the music is arranged, taught, and performed in two concerts all by students. As the leader of one of these mentioned groups, I credit all my skills in arranging, music making and performing to him. Mr. Paltrowitz even creates articles about his specific systems which can be found on Choral clarity, along with original compositions. He is truly a pioneer in the choral education world and no other teacher can compare to Adam Paltrowitz.”
Thank you, Adam, for changing the world one student at a time.

Shocked, Grateful, and Humbled

I was completely shocked to receive this amazing recognition; frankly, I didn’t even know that Mr. Whitacre had been taking the time to recognize educators. I’m such a huge fan of Eric Whitacre and all that he has contributed to the world of choral music. For him to recognize me and share it on several social media platforms made me feel so special as it was shared with hundreds, if not thousands of former students and colleagues around the world.

This recognition acknowledges more than two decades of public school teaching at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School and the tremendous opportunities I have been afforded. As a result of my teaching experience, I began writing the Choral Clarity Blog, facilitating the Choral Clarity Community Facebook Group, giving online workshops and coaching sessions to teachers around the world, guest conducting, and sharing both resources and choral compositions,

At Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, I have been highly focused on creating a self-selected choral community where every student has a potential path toward 4-year success.  This self-selected structure has empowered student leadership and fostered the creation of 8 student-run a-cappella groups that write and teach their own arrangements.

Here are videos of our choir and a-cappella program:

Self-Selected Choral Department YouTube Channel – Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

Student-Run A-Cappella YouTube Channel – Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

The Choral Clarity Brand has become an outlet for me to share my educational experience in the classroom. As year 21 at POBJFKHS is now in the books, I am more passionate about teaching than ever before. Choral Clarity has helped me to hone in even further on WHY I do WHAT I do. It has given me the platform to gain new ideas and feedback from brilliant, receptive, and positive educators and choral pioneers from across the country, including: J.D. Frizzell, Daniel GawthropElisa Janson Jones, Bruce Rockwell, and Dan Vukmirovich. These conversations, many taking place within the Choral Clarity Community, and some continuing privately, have lead to my continued improvement as an educator. With this growth mindset, I then share new ideas within my blog, offer effective resources that have already been successfully implemented within my classroom, and compose music that has been kid-tested/teacher-approved.

 

My main educational objective is:

To teach life to young adults using choral music as my vehicle of inspiration

I aim to inspire students to make a difference in our society, to build community, and to be motivated to learn and achieve. I utilize music-making as the thread to weave these goals together.

Before I am a musician, I am a teacher.

Before I am a teacher, I am a human being.

My main teaching goal is to INSPIRE.

If we inspire individual difference-makers who aim to build community while possessing a thirst to learn and grow, they will collectively become a cohesive choir. Those students will together strive to find depth in the music-making process and, in turn, share meaningful moments with each other and with their audience.

Eric Whitacre’s Impact on the Choral World

I believe nobody in the past two decades has inspired more members of the choral world than Eric Whitacre.

Eric Whitacre has succeeded in making a tremendous difference in our society, in building community, motivating millions of high school-aged students to learn and achieve social and musical success through his compositions. In addition, he has turned on a new generation of singers to the field of choral music.

What happens in most high school choirs when we introduce an Eric Whitacre composition?

Eyes light up, excitement fills the room, students become inspired, self-motivated, and collectively over-achieve. There is something so special hidden within his music; it’s his unique human spirit that brings about this inspiration.


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At the end of the day, we are all imperfect humans; it is our human connection, not our perfection, that allows us to be most impactful.

I am most grateful for Eric Whitacre’s recognition and hope that my Choral Clarity Website and Choral Clarity Community will offer inspiration to more and more teachers around the world.


Please join the Choral Clarity Facebook Community in order to converse together and share your vision!

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 21-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla, and son, Nolan.

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