Online Master of Music in music education
Kent State University
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A lifelong music enthusiast follows an unlikely path to music education
John Owens was working as a furniture store warehouseman after high school when he realized he’d rather fill people’s lives with music than fill their living rooms with sofas. It was the first in a series of “a-ha” moments that led him to rededicate his life to music, both as a performer and later as an educator.
As a graduate of Kent State’s online Master of Music in music education program, he has been able to channel his passion for percussion into a career that puts his heart and mind in rhythm.
It was part of his identity early on. He started learning music on his own as a child, going on to play drums in a metal band in high school and join the school band program. He drew early inspiration from his band director and early percussion coach. That inspiration, coupled with a lack of fulfillment from warehouse work, pushed him to pursue music professionally.
Music affects emotions. Music is ever-present in our lives. Music reflects an individual’s standpoint — it’s part of an ID. — John Owens
From performer to teacher
John eventually found his way into steady work as a professional drummer. He played with the U.S. Army Band, at Disneyland Resorts and even did three years as a studio session drummer in Los Angeles. It was a seven-year stretch of viable jobs, which are hard to come by in the music industry. But it wasn’t until he did a favor for a band director working for the U.S. Army in Germany that he discovered his love for teaching.
“The director said, ‘Hey man, my percussionists are terrible. Can you come help them out?’” John said. “It changed my whole perception — that very moment when I was working with these students and making them into what I felt were good percussionists. That was the turning point for me.”
When he came back to the U.S., he began coaching high school percussion ensembles, but knew he needed to get an advanced degree to really explore the nuances of music education.
From teacher back to student
Initially John was concerned about diving back into student life. He’d finished his bachelor’s degree in 2004 and online learning was new territory for him, but as a father of four, he found Kent State’s program fit his schedule and family life.
“I was a high school band director in Arizona during my master’s. I couldn’t just drop everything and do a full-time degree,” he said. “Then I came across Kent State and it had just the type of courses I was looking for, and they were more elevated. I was totally engaged and immersed. It really pushed me.”
The program helped him find his personality as a teacher. Early on, he drew almost solely from his experience with previous teachers. As he grew and applied concepts from the coursework, he was better able to transfer his knowledge, motivate his students and approach music from a holistic perspective.
The education continues
John has seen so much benefit from earning his master’s degree that he’s now in the dissertation stage of his Ph.D. in Music Education at Kent State. It’s a bold step and the finishing touch on an educational journey he wasn’t even contemplating just a decade ago.
“I wasn’t going to go into music education, but I fell in love with it.”
In order for music education to progress forward, we have to mold it in new ways. I’ve learned how to put my own energy and ideas into it. — John Owens