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“This award validates my replicable music program, which is open to every student”: Q&A with Warren Mize, EdD Student

By The Room 241 Team June 1, 2018

Many would treat a national music education award as the pinnacle of success, but educator and doctoral student Warren Mize sees it as only the beginning. Mize is the director of choral studies and also teaches AP Music Theory and Music Business in San Antonio, Texas. Read on to learn about his innovative music education program, how his doctoral program has influenced his work, and much more.

We know you were recently recognized by the Country Music Association (CMA) and the National Association for Music Education (NafMe). Can you tell us more about that?

The Innovation in Music Education Award is presented by the Give a Note Foundation through the CMA and the National Association for Music Education. This is the first time this award has been given. I was recognized for developing an innovative approach to music education that is replicable and sustainable in other schools/districts.

I started a two-year Music Business and Industry course for secondary schools in the state of Texas. It took over three years to get the program from conceptualization to realization. Year one is an introduction to music business and industry careers, presenting a broad overview of the music and recording industry. It explains how the various segments operate on a day-to-day basis: where monies are generated, who the key players are, how deals are made and broken, how interests are protected, and what the new developments in digital technology are that are changing the way music is marketed, promoted, distributed, and heard. Students are encouraged to think as entrepreneurs as well as marketers. Year two is a practicum/internship with several hands-on opportunities aligned with students’ interests. Students learn the structure of, and relationship between the recording, publishing, marketing, and live performance industries.

My students are hosting an indie music festival (preliminary research reveals we are the only high school in the nation offering such a festival) where our student musicians (bands, solos, groups) will join with alumni who are in the industry. The indie fest has generated quite a bit of excitement, and we look forward to expanding and growing exponentially in the future to a weekend indie fest hosted in our high school stadium. This festival is also a catalyst for next year’s world music festival and country music festival, which will be coordinated and produced by the second-year practicum students.

What does this award mean to you personally and professionally?

This award validates the work needed to get a new class kicked off and confirms the interest in innovative music education programs. Personally, I am humbled by the honor. Professionally, this award has opened doors to expand the program to schools nationwide. It has merit because it reaches students who are on the fringe of many extra/co-curricular activities. It locks in kids who need a reason to get up and go to school each day.

In addition to the CMA ceremony, our program was given a $4,000 grant. This much needed funding will help us with the purchase of computers for these students. We still need $5,000 to get enough for our classes, but it’s a start.

In conjunction with the Innovator in Music Education Award, I will be presenting my program at the National Association for Music Education conference in Dallas this coming November (2018) to music educators across the country. The unique aspect of this program is the curricular and instructional course design. It is not just a project. It is a replicable and sustainable music education program that is open to every student, not just music kids.

What was it like to be flown to Nashville to receive this national award? Was there a specific moment that really impacted you while you were there?

Give a Note Board Member, Sean Smith, music educator Warren Mize, and Give A Note Board President, Beth Slusher.

It was an honor to go to Nashville to receive this award. The event was produced by the Country Music Association. I’ve attended hundreds of events in my life (and even hosted quite a few), but this was on another level entirely. It was such an honor being a part of the distinguished educators, music industry professionals, and producers. The moment that impacted me the most was the connection I had with the Board President for the Give A Note Foundation. Our conversations centered around continuing the relationship with Give A Note as an advocate for innovative music education. This is an opportunity that looks like it will keep going for many years to come.

Do you think your advancement through Concordia University-Portland has shaped your high school music program and the innovative strategies you were recognized for in any way?

I’m earning my EdD in Transformational Leadership and in my doctoral program, I recently took a course on creativity and innovation, which focused on Sir Ken Robinson’s bestseller Out of Our Minds. This course struck a significant chord with me and inspired me to look at educational possibilities from many different angles. My studies at Concordia are enabling me to capitalize on a growth mindset and are giving me confidence to boldly express ideas from concept to reality. This is just the beginning. I look forward to expanding into even more creative ways to reach students.

What has been your greatest takeaway from your EdD program so far?

Since starting the EdD program, I see things differently. My perspective is wider, and I feel I am becoming more appreciative of the impact others have in my life. Whether it be a colleague, a boss, a family member, or a new acquaintance, I embrace diversity of thought and am learning to grow from others. The courses have all been significant in reshaping my ideology and mindset, and I fully anticipate continued growth and development through these courses. I am excited about the dissertation process where I can dive deeper into my passion for leadership. I hope to one day significantly contribute to leadership scholarship, but more importantly, I want to contribute something that will change the landscape of education where it truly is more than a diploma for a kid. I hope my part will help make lifelong learners who give back in greater measure.

We know our doctoral program is rigorous yet rewarding. How are you able to make time for everything? Do you have any advice for EdD students just starting out?

It can be challenging to fit in all of the work, but I have a very understanding and loving wife whose patience and support help me stay the course. I am also blessed with a great assistant in my department who takes a lot of the load and is willing to engage in collegial discussions that even give fodder for some of the papers. My campus is very supportive of my participation in the doctoral program. My advice for EdD students just starting the program is: take it one day at a time, but do something each day. Do not get behind. The professors and staff are very supportive, so be willing to ask questions. Communication with the cohort and professors is critical to success.

What made you choose Concordia University-Portland’s doctoral program?

I chose Concordia University-Portland’s doctoral program because the program is designed to fit a career positioned student, one who works and takes classes. I love the online aspect and degree of self-pacing that is available. Recently, I was talking with a professor/colleague who expressed preference for “brick and mortar” doctoral classes as opposed to online programs. I told him he’d better get used to it because it is the wave of the future. I appreciate CU-Portland’s innovative leaders who’ve designed significant, rigorous doctoral programs that are a step above the rest.

Who or what inspired you to work in education?

Warren Mize with students before a performance at Carnegie Hall

I had always wanted to be an educator, and I had a relatively successful first career in pastoral ministry. Now, I’m in public education, and I am living the dream. My uncle, Dr. Bill Rueter, was a dean at a college in Austin, Texas. I have always looked up to him as a model to follow. He deposited in me a mindset that education can change a person’s life, and he dedicated himself to that pursuit. I am following the same path of creatively and innovatively reaching tomorrow’s world through today’s students.

What kind of student were you when you were younger, and was this an obvious career path for you?

I started playing the piano at six. I’m sort of the quintessential musical nerd, but I love to have fun with music. I try to translate this in my career as a musician and educator. Honestly, what I do now is the right thing for me, and God’s blessing it.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I believe my training and research in Concordia’s EdD program will give me a solid base from which to implement lasting change in traditional public education. I hope to develop programs that bring the love of music to all ages. Through vertical alignment of the fine arts in our district, I believe we will make a significant impact on all areas of student academic achievement. I also hope to contribute to the research of leadership in the fine arts that will help others achieve success.

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