Jason Fahrenbach teaches music technology and chorus at Walt Disney Magnet School, one of the Negaunee Music Institute’s school partners located in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood. He also serves as the director of traditional music at First Presbyterian Church in LaGrange.

Describe an inspiring music education experience.

While I have had many inspiring moments as a music educator, the one that stands out the most is a visit from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago Fellows to my school last year. During their visit, the fellows told the story of Don Quixote using not only their instruments but also props, narration and acting. Students were mesmerized by the expressive nature of Civic’s playing, and the energy in the room was palpable. For my students, the visit from the Civic Fellows brought the power of music alive and was an experience I will never forget.

Did you have an inspiring music/arts educator when you were in school? 

As a junior high student, I was blessed to be instructed by a wonderful and talented man, Mr. Jacobi. Mr. Jacobi brought music alive for our jazz band, where we learned jazz fundamentals as a means to use improvisation as a form of expression. Mr. Jacobi also used music as a tool to expand our learning outside the walls of the classroom. Whether it was playing in various jazz festivals, making records to be submitted for contests or performing at various venues around Chicago, Mr. Jacobi taught us that music can bring one closer to a world s/he may not know.

How has music/arts education impacted your life?

Starting with my first music teacher, who encouraged a shy child to sing in the school musical, I came to see music as my voice to understanding the world. Music education gave me a universal language to communicate with. Through singing or playing at nursing homes, churches, schools or other community events, music gave me a tool to interact with [people] I may not have much in common.

Describe a moment when you saw music change a student’s life.

I see music’s ability to change lives every single Tuesday and Thursday at 7:15 a.m. Disney students come from all parts of Chicago to attend school (as far south as 110th Street). Before school, every Tuesday and Thursday, I have the joy of conducting our school chorus. I began to notice the lengths students would go through to attend chorus rehearsal, and I realized there are probably few things that could have the power to get kids up at 5 a.m. Some students even take two trains just to make it to rehearsal on time!

What do you hope your students will receive from their music education?

I hope my students have tools. I hope my students have the tools to make music, to participate in music-making and to understand how all genres of music use their own domains to communicate emotions and tell stories.

How does music/arts education address the social and emotional needs of your students?

Music and arts education are most likely the easiest outlet for our children to positively express themselves. Often we forget our students simply do not have the skills to share or express their emotions. Through music and arts education, students are given the tools they need to express and communicate with others in a pro-active way. I see my students using their musical compositions to share and show others how they best want to be identified and also as their primary outlet to express themselves.

How has music/arts education created lasting connections between you and other people?

Music has provided me with an invaluable resource to have positive relationships with others. I have always been astounded that no matter their age, everyone loves to make music. Through my church choir, I have established long-lasting friendships based on our common love of singing. In my school chorus, I am able to build connections with students centered on the joy of music-making. And in my general music classes, I see students grow outside the normal classroom because they know music is the great equalizer. When everyone is put on the same page, it is amazing the connections you can see!

TOP: Leading the CSO-Connect program, Civic Fellows perform for students at Walt Disney Magnet School. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography