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Catching up with ETM Alum, Kevin Heathwood

We are excited to catch up with ETM Alum, Kevin Heathwood. Kevin started with ETM back in 2011 and credits his years with Education Through Music as making him into the teacher he is today. Kevin shares with us how he got involved with music education, what he loves most about the profession, and the impact ETM has had on his career.


Tell us your story and how you came to ETM. 

I was born and raised in Long Island, went to Indiana University to study music education, and moved back to New York with the dream of moving to New York City to live and teach. My first music teaching job out of college was a leave replacement in the Hamptons in 2010. Jobs were tough to come by back then, especially in the city where there was a hiring freeze for music teachers. My first music teaching position that was truly “mine” and not a leave replacement was with ETM in 2011 when I was hired to teach at MS 180 in the Bronx. I was drawn to ETM because they were a wonderful mechanism for people from outside the city to find a way in. I had no idea how to get a job in the city, I didn’t know anyone, had no connections, had no idea how the system worked, but ETM made it easy for me to find a way in. They also had structure of support that was enticing, especially for a young teacher like myself.

My time working as an employee of ETM has always felt like “student teaching 2.0,” and I’ve always said that it was in those 2 years of working for ETM that made me into the teacher I am today. The work with my field supervisor and the program staff who were also music teachers was invaluable. The school I was working at eventually hired me directly in 2013, and though I was now an employee of the NYC DOE, I was still working at an ETM partner school and continued to receive support. It ended up being a win-win for both me and my students as we were always getting support and performing opportunities that we wouldn’t have gotten had we not been associated with ETM.


What & where is your current position and what do you love most about teaching music? 

I am the band director at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, I am one of the associate conductors for the All City Concert Band, and I am the newly appointed NYSSMA Representative for Zone 12 (NYC). The best part about teaching is the relationships you form with the students. This is also the worst part, because they all grow up and eventually graduate, furthering my heartache, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, because the pride you get when seeing them grow into wonderful people makes it all worth it. I am a teacher first, a musician second. I teach them to be better people, and I use music to do it.


What skills or experiences did you gain at ETM that you found most useful and helpful in your career as a music educator?

I learned how to administrate a program in the sometimes complicated system of the NYC DOE. I learned empathy, as most of the students I taught while with ETM were from underserved communities, and this was far from the experience I had growing up in the affluent suburb of Long Island. I learned how to use my community of music teachers to build a support system to make sure me and my students were never alone and unsure. We made sure to always collaborate with other schools at things such as the ETM festival and ETM Gala, and I learned that it was ok not to know something, because ETM had a network of dozens of teachers who were experts where I was not and could help me out where I needed it.


Central to our model is establishing career pathways in the field of music education. Our aim is for ETM Teachers to be hired by the NYC Department of Education – and they are! Click below for more inspiring ETM stories and learn about our truly unique model of music education.