Photo by Tess Iler
Orchestra teacher of 30 years, Jonathan Lane, announced in an open letter that he will be retiring from the district next year. He chose to do this instead of signing a new contract that he doesn’t agree with.
Since the superintendent eliminated the district music coordinator last year, the district has asked music teachers to take on roles that the coordinator previously carried out, without any extra pay. In his open email to orchestra families Lane explained that it is a real time commitment, and not a strength of his.
“[The contract] has other specified duties and requirements I find onerous and horribly controlling,” Lane said. “This contract has been written by a person that does not understand or respect the job music teachers do.”
Lane also would like to see the art programs at East better supported by SMSD school district. Throughout his career, their funding and support has been significantly reduced.
Senior violin player Juliana Gogol, who has had Mr. Lane as a teacher since eighth grade, said most students are frustrated and disappointed that Mr. Lane is leaving. Gogol feels that it will be hard to fill Lane’s role.
“It is going to be hard to find someone to replace Mr. Lane,” Gogol said. “Especially with his level of expertise, level of passion for it and preservation of the program.”
Sophomore cello player Ava Backer explained that Mr. Lane had a really straight forward attitude about the situation and has been honest about what’s going on with the students in class.
“We’re kind of anticipating who the next person who is going to come in because Lane has worked in the district for so long and there has never really been anyone else,” Backer said. “It will be interesting to see who can fill that and how they’ll be.”
Lane said that he hasn’t said goodbye to the students yet since his decision to retire happened quickly since he was not originally planning to leave this year. Despite not saying his goodbyes yet, he is going to miss seeing kids get motivated to buy new instruments, take lessons and progress over the years. So far he doesn’t have any idea about who will take over the job, and that a potential teacher might not feel confident of taking over a program that holds such a reputation already.
Lane said since there is not a district music coordinator anymore, he doesn’t know who is qualified to go through resumes to find the right teacher. Lane feels that the best teachers have a depth of knowledge on their subject, love it and spend a lot of time on it. And that good teachers study not only the subject, but how they can convey it and how they teach it.
“Getting a candidate for this job very much concerns me,” Lane said. “There may be someone out there,” Lane said. “It may be a young person who’s a talented musician and is motivated.”
Backer is inspired by Lane’s passion and vast knowledge of music history. She has enjoyed working towards the high expectations he has set for his students and loves that he picks music everyone likes.
“[Lane] really teaches us to improve on everything, and not just intonation, which is when you’re in tune, but style and dynamics,” Backer said. “He teaches us everything and how you need to combine everything together to make the piece as best as it can be.”
Giving the students challenging music is something Lane has done to help motivate the students. He believes that his passion for music is contagious, and so he never dumbs down music for students.
“[We are] trying to get to the heart and soul of the music,” Lane said. “Just because [they’re] teenagers doesn’t mean you can’t feel that passionate about these adult concepts of music. So even with my younger students I try to do that, is to give [them] significant literature.”
Gogol feels a lot of people would not be were they are in their music or academic career without Lane and will be sad to see him go. Gogol has enjoyed that Lane has made a point to connect with her through her interest in fashion and design.
“Mr. Lane is actually a big “Project Runway” fan, and he’ll come up to me and be like ‘so, you see that last episode of project runway?’” Gogol said. “Then he’ll dissect the fashion with me. He has given me the spiel about how he wishes there was a project runway for music.”
Gogol and Backer have both enjoyed Lane’s humor and drive in the classroom, which is something he does to keep the class fun. Some of their favorite memories range from his lowkey jokes, to the interesting suits he got tailored in Tokyo.
Lane, who considers himself a lifelong music maker and teacher, continues to seek other opportunities and jobs for next year. His first choice would be another public school, but he has also been looking internationally and around the midwest.