Have you ever mentored someone who you could tell was going to do great things? I have, and he needs help!
For those who don’t know, I am a professor at Eastern Michigan University in music teacher education. I work with every music education major at EMU and watch them grow into professionals. Occasionally, I encounter someone who, even as a first-year student in my “Introduction to Music Education” course, clearly demonstrates that spark of unusual potential to become an outstanding music educator. Merrick Breckler is one of those students.
Merrick is extremely thoughtful and reflective about the music education profession and the kind of teacher he aims to be. Even though it will be several years before he has a music classroom of his own (since he’s only a sophomore), it is clear that he already cares deeply for the future students he will have. Merrick is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive music learning environment for ALL, one in which his future students will experience the safety and support that will not only help their musical abilities blossom and flourish but to help them grow as humans. I was so impressed by Merrick’s commitment to his future career and his deep thoughtfulness about the profession that I nominated him to receive an opportunity to work with me on a research study this academic year. Because Merrick strongly believes that ALL students deserve music education in school, we developed a survey to investigate the relationships between secondary music teachers’ ensemble-related beliefs and their attitudes about inclusion of students with developmental disabilities. A few weeks ago, Merrick gave a fantastic presentation at EMU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in which he shared our results so far. Sadly, they indicate what we hypothesized: The more traditional a teacher’s beliefs (focuses on performance as the main goal, cares about getting high marks at adjudicated events, values the group over the individual, etc.), the less inclusive they tend to be of students with developmental disabilities. Here are a few images from Merrick’s presentation:
Merrick has recently encountered unexpected financial hardship. However, his outside-of-class requirements for participation in the EMU Choir and his vocal study have made it virtually impossible for him to work over the past two months. Merrick has had to use up his savings that were supposed to pay for tuition and fees this semester in order to pay for rent and groceries. He currently has just over $2000 left on his university ebill and will not be allowed to register for fall classes until it is paid off. In addition, he is currently unable to be considered for most university scholarships (of which I have recommended him for several!) because they are dependent on being registered for the fall. This fall is also a hugely important semester for Merrick because one of his required music education courses only runs in odd-numbered fall semesters, so if he can’t enroll for this fall, he will not be able to take the course until Fall 2025 and thus will have to delay graduation.
I am not one who asks for help often, especially financially, but I have already seen a number of students who encounter a bump in the road that ends up taking them off course, eventually abandoning their degree altogether. We need great teachers now more than ever, and Merrick will be a PHENOMENAL one! I can’t stand by and risk his potential going to waste due to temporary financial struggles. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the financial generosity of others, and I try to pay it forward whenever I can. I can’t pay the entire $2000+ for Merrick, so I’m hoping some generous individuals might be willing to join me in chipping in to help Merrick move forward. He recently told me, “The only thing I really want to do is teach music,” so I hope you’ll consider pitching in even just a little to help make that dream happen for Merrick! He will be a positive influence in many students’ lives for decades to come!