For Peter Briggs, music education is constantly evolving.
Recently, the Central Washington University alumnus was recognized by the Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) as the High School Music Educator of the Year as well as the overall Outstanding Music Educator for Washington State, placing him in the running for the National Music Educator of the Year award.
Briggs, who graduated in 2004 with a music education degree, said he was humbled and excited to receive the award.
“The award was selected by my peers,” he said. “It was other music teachers that said they see value in the work that I’m doing.”
Currently, Briggs works at Lincoln High School, where he’s been teaching music since 2008.
When he first came to Lincoln High School, the music program was on the decline. “I was the only music teach there,” Briggs recalled. Instead of focusing on what a successful music program traditionally looked like, he put his students’ needs at center stage.
Remembering how his time with Lincoln High School began, Briggs said, “I was so inspired by the students there, it brought me to think differently about music education.”
Briggs’ teaching style emphasizes the journey. He tries to be culturally responsive and focused on what his students are interested in.
While some music programs have traditionally focused on concerts or performances, Briggs places his emphasis on student learning, and the growth they experience in the program.
“When we as teachers can mesh the product and the process together, everything comes together in a way that’s really organic and just makes the work a lot of joy,” said Briggs.
He credits some of his success to the environment he experienced in the music department during his time at CWU. While in music classes, his professors took the time to break down what they were doing and how they were teaching it. “It wasn’t just about music,” he mentioned. “It was also about music teaching.”
After graduation, Briggs would go on to earn his MA in band conducting in 2015 from the American Band College at Sam Houston State University, but he was never far from the CWU community.
“CWU produces so many phenomenal music teachers, it’s like I joined a career and a community,” said Briggs. “There’s such a robust network of professionals that have graduated from Central Washington University music. It’s such a unique family to be part of.”
Now, Briggs works to promote the need and value of reimagining music education. In addition to working with his students, he works with upcoming music educators through an organization he started called SoundEd.
“I’ve incorporated an organization to share my approach to music education and inspire others to use music to grow all students,” said Briggs. “With this, I have presented at schools and conferences locally and nationally.
Advising future music educators, he says it’s an amazing journey.
“Often times we have these expectations about what we should be doing, but if you’re curious about yourself and curious to know your students, and bring music into that journey, whatever you discover will have a sense of value and connection. It really is that simple.”
To see a video put out by Tacoma Public Schools about Peter Briggs and the phenomenal work he does as a music educator, please visit their Facebook page.
Story by: Kathleen Singleton