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Balancing Life as a Teaching Artist by Bernard Long Jr.

May 30, 2022, 08:00 AM by Rhythm Scene Staff

As percussionists, we eat, breathe, and live music. We are music educators, performing artists, and servant leaders; many of us teach all day, perform in the evenings, and serve our communities in many different roles. The personal and professional becomes blurred when you choose a life in the creative arts, so we must actively manage our time and workload. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, how do we balance our work to achieve our professional goals and live a fulfilling life? Following are a few personal suggestions based on my approach to prioritizing health and happiness. 

I love my family, friends, and mentors. We check on each other weekly and pray for one another. A check-in can be done via text, phone call, email, or a dinner date. I keep my circle small, and we challenge, motivate, and encourage each other to remain focused on our goals big and small. I use words of affirmation with my students, and colleagues. There is power in the tongue, so you must be conscious of what you speak daily to keep a positive attitude and environment.

I schedule personal time for myself weekly. Self-care is very important. I meditate once a week while listening to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. I also ride my bike two to three times a week, averaging 40 miles per week. I believe when you look good you feel good, so I get a pedicure once a month and go to the barbershop twice a month. I cook about four days a week, and doing this has helped me live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve lost 32 pounds and saved money from not eating out as often. Health, diet, and brain breaks will keep you on your journey to success.  

Keeping a schedule is very important to me; time and money are two things you can’t get back. I start and end my meetings and classes on time. I always arrive at performances, rehearsals, and master classes one hour early. Being punctual shows that you respect everyone's time and the task that you must complete. I use a Google calendar on my phone, and it is color coded and linked to my laptop and iPad. I always check my school calendar first before I schedule events. 

I work to find joy in life. When teaching, don’t be so stern that you forget to laugh along the way. I believe in working hard but also playing hard. I enjoy joking with students and colleagues when in the classroom or on the bandstand. Being flexible and humorous provides a safe, positive space. Creating a fun workspace helps build the culture of your school or organization. 

Trying new things is where you find your creativity, new hobbies, or new streams of income. During the pandemic I began biking, and I love it. I’ve gained a new community of bike friends. I’ve added an exercise that has helped me get healthy. Last school year, I began creating school fliers for our concerts and other school related events. I now create fliers for local businesses, churches, and other organizations. You must be open minded and flexible to explore new opportunities. 

Yes, it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. You only get one life, and you should live it to the fullest. Your body will tell you when it’s time to take that sick-leave day. I highly recommend taking a mental-health day where you unplug from emails, meetings, students, family, friends, colleagues, and projects. Stress can kill you, but it can also be avoided when you make yourself your top priority.

Bernard LongBernard Long Jr. is the head Band Director at Madison Jr./Sr. High School in Madison, Illinois. He graduated with his BM in Jazz Studies May 2009 from Northern Illinois University under the leadership of Professor Ron Carter and earned his MM in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University and Ed.S in School Leadership from Lindenwood University. Bernard is the Adjunct Professor of Jazz Drum Set at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri and is active as a percussionist and clinician. He is the percussionist for Third Presbyterian Church, the National Tour of Antigone in Ferguson, the St. Louis Black Rep Theater company, and the St. Louis Muny. He is a 2016 graduate of the Focus St. Louis emerging leaders’ class and a board member for the St. Louis Civic Orchestra. He was also a 2018 honoree of the Salute to Excellence in Education class sponsored by the St. Louis American Foundation. Bernard Jr. is a member of the PAS Education and Diversity committees.

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