Byron Center — Madison Peters teaches by day and performs by night, or whenever she has a gig.
An orchestra teacher at West Middle School, Nickels Intermediate and Byron Center High School for more than five years and a professional musician, Peters said music has always been a part of her life.
“I learned to play cello first, then started teaching myself guitar and ukulele,” she said. “I became a musician first and teacher second.”
Peters said her students love that she performs outside of school, and that it sometimes influences their practice habits.
“I’ve played in bands, orchestras, for weddings, wherever I get hired,” Peters said. “It pushes me to practice and encourages my students to practice too.”
What is the thing that gets you up in the morning and excited about teaching? “I like being able to share music with the younger generation. It’s really special to start with the younger kids in the morning at West Middle School, then go to Nickels and then the high school. The students continue to get to know me and I get to put a bug in the eighth-graders’ ears to continue playing in high school.”
What’s the most amazing thing about teaching orchestra to middle- and high-school students? “At the sixth-grade level, I love having fun with them. We can be goofy and play music games and they can do it without thinking they’re too old for it. With the older students, we can dive into advanced repertoire, check off pieces from my dream list of songs to play.
“You can continue the relationship for seven years. My first year of fifth-graders are now freshmen, so they know me. They know my vibes.”
What do you like about teaching orchestra? “I decided when I was a sophomore in high school that I wanted to teach music. I started working with middle-schoolers and teaching at summer camps. It all stems from a love of music. I like to perform, but I also like to show my students they can do that, too, and have job security.
“I love conducting as well. I have the best seat in the house and can hear all the parts around me.”
What are some of the biggest challenges and how do you strive to meet them? “Instrument maintenance gets in the way of playing time. Broken strings, tuning, bridges warping, it’s the little things that get in the way. Also navigating school schedules and snow days with rehearsal schedules.
“I played soccer and cello (in high school), so I tell students they can do it all. If you love being on the orchestra team, give whatever you can give and there will be a spot for you.”
What would you say to someone considering teaching as a profession? “It’s really fun. If music is your love, you get to make music all day every day. Yeah, there are extra challenges that come with teaching, but making music is the core.”