Dr. Dobrin: A Life in Music and Teaching

In this installment we reflect on a life of music and teaching.

Perhaps more than any other subject or discipline, teaching music affords the student much more than learning to play an instrument. A good music teacher will integrate the relevance of historical and political perspective, social attitudes and analytical thinking as it pertains to the music they are teaching. For the student, this well-rounded approach enhances and deepens their musical understanding. In addition, students learn an awareness of how music is an essential part of our world. This is the essence of “educating through music”.

Unfortunately, many go into the music profession with the mindset that says, “If I don’t make it as a performer, I can always fall back on teaching”. This is unfortunate, especially when you consider the education crisis we are facing in this country. We would do well to not breathe the words “fall back” and “teaching” in the same sentence. Teaching is not a job, it is a calling – and serious business with tremendous responsibilities.

Musicians must be resourceful when it comes to making a living doing what we love. We are “entrepreneurs” because we are a one-person company, working, marketing and advertising our services. Inherent in being a serious musician is the ultimate goal to transcend our instrument and create an artistic experience through music. Becoming  a musical artist is no different than becoming a teaching artist. Each has different challenges, but both demand hours of practice, commitment and dedication. When you think of the teachers that guided your musical development, you will soon agree that a great education begins with great teaching.

Dr. Dobrin is an artist and an artist teacher and carries on the legacy left to him by his teachers. When he was a student, he studied with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. From Ball State University he received the degree of Doctor of Arts and Master of Music. From 1993 to 2001 he was associate conductor of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. He has served as guest conductor in New York, Munich, Tokyo and Buenos Aries.

In 2008, Dr. Dobrin was hired at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, teaching Comprehensive Musicianship, Latin Ensemble, Jazz Piano and Advanced Placement Music Theory. His Latin American Ensemble has won the Downbeat award two years running in 2009 & 2010.

Dr. Dobrin exemplifies the Artist and the Teaching Artist. His dedication and passion are clearly evident in his own words:

In the Talmud (Taanit 7a.), circa 300 BCE, Hanina bar Hana states: “I have learned much from my teachers, from my colleagues even more, but from my students I have learned the most.”

I live by that. I’m so passionate about teaching. We need to perpetuate the artistic legacy, because when we teach music, we teach math, history, geography, and language, but in a much more beautiful way.

In the eyes of most, the dyad teacher-student seemingly reflects polar opposites. In mine, it provides an opportunity to imbue the tangible bits of knowledge I may possess with the wisdom of relevance. And no one understands relevance more than my students; their cues are priceless in this symbiosis.

But teaching has not always drawn a path laden with success for me. Nor do I expect this miracle to ever occur. That is why teaching is oft compared to a priesthood, a way of life in response to a calling from deep within our souls.


©Richard Rejino