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Faith Spraktes

Comm 1010

Bill Kilpack


Executive Summary

For my Career Interview Project, I interviewed Mathew Ulmer who is the choir teacher at

Riverton High School. I was able to interview him on October 11 and learn more about what it is

like to be a music teacher. I chose him because he was my music teacher in high school and had

an impact on not only music, but life at that time. During the interview I felt like my eyes were

truly opened to what it is like to be a teacher. I learned things that I didnt expect and it was

really great to see and learn more about what its like to teach and even outside of the classroom.

I really enjoyed learning more about the planning process for each day and lesson. He told me

things that he loved about being teacher and other things that he didnt. This project has really

made me think about if this is really what I want to do and how to do it. I would change a few

things in my interview and preparing for the interview itself but overall I am pleased with how it

all turned out.

Identifying the Subject

Matt Ulmer was my choir teacher multiple times in high school and that is something that

really influenced my decision in choosing him. Riverton High is also known for having an

outstanding music program and he has made a big impact there at the school. I felt he was a

memorable teacher and experienced in teaching music. Since I already had a pretty good idea of

his teaching style I knew Id be able to ask more in depth questions about how to become a

teacher and more of the behind the scenes work. Another thing with knowing his teaching

style, I was excited to ask him about how he plans his lessons and why he chooses different

techniques when he teaches. I contacted him via text as that is the best way for him to

communicate. I also know him well enough I thought text would be most appropriate. He was

very gracious and open to doing an interview. We were able to set up an interview time that was

a good time for both of us. No problems arose when I contacted him a week before the interview

on October 11.

What I Learned

One thing that I was very interested in is how and what its like to become a music

teacher. Matt has always loved music and choir but had never really thought of teaching it.

Something I didnt know about Matt was that he originally had a degree in history and English,

but when he became a student teacher his mentor was also a music teacher. In a way, he slid into

the position and found he really enjoyed teaching music. He then went back to school and got

his Bachelors degree in music and then his Masters. He received his degree at the University of

Utah and highly recommended their music program. I am very grateful for this insight since one

of my questions was which school has a favorable music program. He also explained that to find

a job as a high school teacher, you have to go through a long process and finding a job opening is

very difficult. First you go to job fairs, and then a screening interview with the school district

where they rate you, and then you keep watching for openings. The district will send your

screening to the school and then you interview at the school. Something he really recommended

is just getting your name out there and knowing people who are also in that field.

Another thing I wanted to know is what it is actually like to be a music teacher, what is

most challenging, and any tips he might have. Matt said that preparation and planning lessons

are the biggest and hardest things. Every day for each class you have to plan the warmups and

rhythm exercises according the songs the students are currently singing. Then breaking down

each song, what section you want to do that day, how much time to spend on each song and

different concepts to teach with those sections. He also stressed how important it was to work on

each song at least once each day and that as the teacher you really have to know the music inside

and out. A more difficult part of teaching music is picking the songs. At Riverton High there are

five different choir groups, and for each concert four of the groups sing three to four songs, while

the advanced choir, Madrigals, will learn anywhere from five to fifteen songs. You have to

choose songs that the group is capable of singing, but songs that well stretch them and help them

learn new things.

Something I really wanted to learn was if after twenty years of teaching if he still enjoys

it. Also things he loves and things he doesnt or things he didnt expect. He said he never knew

how many headaches he would get teaching and how draining it is to work with so many

students. Matt also said how difficult it is when you get students that really dont even like

music and just take the class to get the fine art credit. Although, he said the good outweighs the

bad. Matt said it is really rewarding to see his students succeed and grow in their musical

abilities and he still loves it each year and enjoys learning new songs himself and being involved

in music each day. The thing that stuck out the most to me was when I asked him how music has

impacted his own life. He said that no matter what was happening in his life, something always

comes up either on the radio, television, or online that relates to a song he is teaching in class and

how exciting that is to share with the students and teach them that music has more meaning than

just notes and words on a page.


After the interview, and then talking more with Matt I kept thinking if this is really what I

want to do. Something Matt said that really gave me a new perspective was that after playing the

piano all day and teaching music seven hours a day he doesnt play the piano at home or sing for

fun anymore, that he sometimes feels burned out. Hearing this made me sad and really question

if I would feel the same way. It also reminded me of another choir teacher, Mrs. Wilmore. She

started the music program at Riverton High but because she sang so much and put so much work

into her music, she damaged her vocal chords and now can no longer sing. More than once, after

week long choral performances and competitions, I have experienced extreme stress on my own

vocal chords and temporary damage. Music is such a big part and joy in my life and I wouldnt

want to resent it, not love it as much at the end of the day or not even be able to. This has really

made me rethink my career choice. I still want to be a teacher but maybe not a full time music.

Matt said he also had a degree in history and English. I enjoy both of these subjects and I would

like to teach music and then a different class as well.

What I Would Change

One big thing that I would change is the questions I asked. A few I didnt really get any

answers that influenced me or taught me anything. I would also want to ask more specific

questions about the education involved in receiving a degree in music education; what kind of

classes you have to take and some that arent required but are beneficial. I would definitely better

prepare my questions to be more specific and also have some back up questions for if and when

the answers for others werent beneficial.


Appendices Table of Contents

Checklist 7

Interview Questions 8

Contact Log 10

Thank You Letter 11

Interview Checklist

___ Preview Chapters 6 and 7 in the class text

___ Keep a log of all activities connected with the assignment and all the correspondence
(including phone calls, address and phone number)

___ Identify (below) an appropriate contact in the field by name, position and title. Also
include name of the organization, its address and phone number (if different from that of
the contact).

___ Describe (below) how you learned of your subject and describe the research findings you
gathered about your subject and his/her organization and field before making contact.

___ Make a preliminary plan (below) for the interview by describing your general and
specific purposes. Plan how to contact the person and request an interview. In your log,
indicate the channel (communication medium) you plan to use, such as phone, letter, e-
mail, etc. when you make contact with the individual. (Note: include a copy of written
correspondence for your written report.)

___ Attach your list of questions (at least 20)

___ Justify your choice of channels (below)
___ Try to schedule interview at least two weeks prior to the Due Date (above). Sooner
would be better.

___ Turn in this checklist for my evaluation on the Checklist Due date (above).

Fulfilling this checklist is part of the overall grade on this assignment. If completed by the
Checklist Due date, the checklist is worth up to 25 of the 150 pts. possible for Assignment #6.
Questions for Interview

1. What made you decide you wanted to be a music teacher? When?

2. Where did you get your degree? Did you like their program?

3. What was the schooling like? Certain classes you had to take? Competitive field?

4. What do you wish you would have learned before you started?

5. Things you didnt expect?

6. What is your favorite part about teaching music? Least favorite?

7. How do you choose music for each choir and concert?

8. Do you match the music to the students abilities? Or try to stretch them?

9. Tips on how to be an effective conductor?

10. Techniques on how to teach students to better understand the concept youre teaching?

11. How do you plan lessons?

12. When teaching different age groups, how do you make the lesson applicable to everyone?

13. What do you do to deal with difficult students?

14. What helps you stay patient when class is difficult?

15. Hardest part of being a teacher?

16. What is it like applying for a job?

17. How long have you been teaching, and do you still like or love it?

18. Can you hear the difference in the choirs from the beginning of the year to the end?

19. How do you know what section best fits a student?

20. What do you love about teaching music? What has it done for your life?

Contact Log

1. Identifying the Contact:

a. Mathew (Matt) Ulmer. Choir teacher at Riverton High School.
b. 12476 S. Silverwolf Way
Riverton, Utah
2. Making Contact:
a. Contacted on Tuesday September 27, via text, asking how he was and if an
interview was okay.
3. Scheduling the Interview:
a. Scheduled interview for October 11 at 3 PM in the Riverton High choir room.
b. Contacted on Friday October 7 via text to confirm interview date and time.
4. Follow up:
a. Contacted on October 18 to deliver thank you letter and thank him again in

Mathew Ulmer
12476 S. Silverwolf Way
Riverton, Utah
October 18, 2016

Dear Mr. Ulmer,

I would like the thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to allow me to interview
you. This interview really enlightened me on what it is like to be a music teacher. You answered
all of my questions so well and gave me so much valuable information. It truly means so much
that you would take the time to help and teach me.
I would also like the thank you for not only teaching me what its like to be a teacher, but
teaching me when I was in your class. You taught me so much about music I never knew and
truly helped expand my musical abilities.
Thank you again for all you have done and continue to do each day.

Faith Spraktes