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Letter to Myself: Kevin Ford

Yamaha Master Educator Kevin Ford is the Director of the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts at Tarpon Springs (Florida) High School.

Below, he pens a letter to his younger self, sharing advice, anecdotes and inspiration for a fulfilling career in music education.


Dear Younger Kevin:

There’s one piece of advice that I want to emphasize as you embark on your career as a music educator — be patient!

Be patient and stop worrying about the things you can’t control! Don’t focus on “what is good for me” but rather on “what is best for your students.” Remember, the real joy as a teacher is making a difference in the lives of the extraordinary individuals you have the privilege to teach every day.

You entered this profession because you wanted to be a difference maker. All of the students in front of you — yes, even the most challenging ones — possess the potential for something great. Be the difference in their lives and the catalyst that propels them to greatness.

No two students learn the same way. Be patient, get to know them and search out what motivates them. Don’t compare them to one another. Don’t allow a day to go by without acknowledging someone’s improvement. Avoid comparing your performance ensemble to someone else’s. Every situation is different.

Never forget to show students through your actions what they can become and are capable of as individuals. Remember that the performing arts is a discipline, and mastering a discipline will take time — so be patient!

Celebrate the small successes one day at a time and stop worrying about whether your students will get it. Some of your best moments as an educator will not be when the audience is watching. The process is what matters!

Focus on what needs to be done today to make your students better than they were yesterday. Be patient as you work toward developing a growth mindset in your organization.

Your responsibility is to focus everyone on the long-term goals, but remember that short-term goals allow long-term goals to reveal themselves. Provide daily goals and acknowledge when they are achieved. Remember, you are building a culture, and it will take time. Remember, excellence is not a destination, and never mistake activity for achievement. Quality matters!

Through your example and consistent standards, students will have opportunities to develop their own habits of excellence. The ultimate goal is for students to take responsibility for their own learning. Guide them to make independent decisions that release the artistry and passion inside of them. Take pride in the everyday. It will be hard … really hard. Be patient and make no excuses.

The hard work will build character and pride. Ultimately, inspire students to a way of doing and being that allows them to move forward and make positive impacts in all aspects of their lives. Inspire them to be the best versions of themselves and never forget to acknowledge the greatness, artistry and potential within them, and always remember … be patient!


Kevin in 2019


This article originally appeared in the 2019 V3 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.