From Music Performance to Music Education (feat. Luke Cuerel)

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Luke as a fellow musician and friend for over a decade now. Luke’s ability to effectively communicate with people on and off the bandstand is something I’m continually impressed by. Whether he is in a leadership position or part of an ensemble, Luke manages to make each situation feel equally productive and enjoyable. For these reasons and more, I wanted to document Luke’s experiences of moving from music performance to music education. This transition is not uncommon among musicians, but Luke has managed to make a seamless transition that I feel many of us could learn from. If you are having thoughts of taking your music skills into education, I encourage you to take the time to read this interview.

How long have you been working in music education?

I have been teaching in the classroom since the beginning of 2015, but have been teaching saxophone and clarinet privately a lot longer.

Given your background as a performing instrumentalist, what made you consider focusing on education instead of performing?

I was never really that sure I wanted to become a teacher, and started doing a diploma of education because it seemed like the logical way to earn a bit of money. I ended up enjoying it! I definitely also enjoyed the freedom that having a regular income afforded me with choosing what music I wanted to play.

You’ve managed to release an album of original orchestral music for 14 musicians, whilst working full time as a secondary school educator? Can you share your wisdom on time management?

I don’t know if it is wisdom or recklessness, but it definitely takes a lot to keep up the momentum in each area. There were definitely times where I burnt out, but I guess the need to push something out really motivated me forward. It’s probably not the most sustainable option, but for now I’m learning heaps about time management and tricking myself into being productive!

What are the skills you consider most important when it comes to being an effective educator as opposed to an entertaining performer?

It’s going to sound cliche, but I will say it anyway – authenticity. If people think you care about what you are doing, they are more likely to listen to you, regardless of the activity. I think that was one of the big lessons I learned in the first few years of teaching, and carried it across to performing too.

What would you suggest to a musician considering a future in music education?

Education is not without it’s downfalls, you have to be ready for the administration aspect, and be prepared to never fully being on top of anything (really similar to improvised music!). If you can manage that side of things, it is pretty rewarding and secure.

How did you approach getting work as an educator after you finished your studies?

I went straight to the school I did my practical placements at uni, so it was an easy transition! I still work there today (5 years on). I am also privately teaching, which I have pretty consistently done for quite a while.

Are there any other roles you take on that are not included in your position but “come with the territory”?

As a music teacher, you are the school’s default sound guy…

Are there any elements to music education that you feel are particularly challenging?

I guess the juggling of priorities, as well as trying to meet the needs of many different people. You are just dealing with people, so it’s difficult to please everyone, and your role requires you to deal with so many different types of social situations.

Has working in music education changed the way you approach making and performing music?

100%! I feel I do get lost in my own head a bit with the music I make, and regularly staying in touch with education gives the music I make a bit more purpose, or at least makes me question what I’m doing more.

What do you feel are the most misunderstood aspects of music education?

Something I’ve been trying to bring into my performing and teaching lately is the idea of community, and the process of music making, rather than a technical skill. The knowledge to make music or perform is nothing without the actual process.

For more information on Luke head to his site:

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