Luck is not chance, it’s toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned. ~ Emily Dickinson

Mr. Ahrens teaches band & choir at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, CA.


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Blogging November

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I really enjoy writing. And I dread it.

It can be one of the most enjoyable things for me to do for myself, but I seldom have the requisite time to dedicate to it or toward daily reading. It frustrates me when I don’t have the time to do things correctly. So, I just . . . → Read More: Blogging November

Life Lesson #12: The Love of Music


There are certainly powerful reasons music becomes such an important part of a music student’s life. It is a discipline that connects to their core. It connects to their feelings. It gives them creative power. It allows them to share intimately without having to talk or “open up” in a traditional manner. It is a challenge. It is fun. And these are also the reasons we teach music. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #12: The Love of Music

Life Lesson #11: Connecting Emotion


The craft of music is generally taught prior to the art of music. Students begin their studies at an age where an appreciation for music’s humanity has not yet been developed. (Some never achieve this). It is our duty as educators to assist student musicians in connecting their personal expression and emotions to what may be to them simply a physical and mental exercise. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #11: Connecting Emotion

Life Lesson #10: Setting Goals


A successful musician must be setting goals all the time. We have goals about the preparation of a particular piece of music for the purpose of performance. We make specific goals to attain certain levels of proficiency on our instrument. We make goals regarding successfully auditioning for honor groups, universities, scholarships, or winning seats into bands, orchestras, or other performance ensembles we desire to join. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #10: Setting Goals

Life Lesson #9: Leadership

When a student first walks into the band room, training in leadership is underway. The older students (and the director) are modelling behavior through their own actions. This is indirect leadership. This is possibly the most important and powerful form of leadership. We are defined by our actions, rather than our thoughts or even words. And young, nervous 14 year olds walking into a room of well disciplined, well behaved, and kind older students will do all they can to fit in to the mold that has already been set. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #9: Leadership

Life Lesson #8: Self-Confidence

Arguably the most difficult time in anyone’s life is that period of adolescence happening in the middle school and high school years. With puberty comes several physical and chemical changes leading to a general switch in demeanor, emotionalism, heightened social dramas, and often crippling fear and/or anxiety as to real or imagined perceptions of onesself by one’s peers. Meanwhile, expectations to stand out from the crowd academically in a time of quickly rising global competitiveness are placed on these children by parents, teachers, and themselves. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #8: Self-Confidence

Life Lesson #7: Personal Responsibility / Punctuality

Each member of a band or choir has musical value that may be positive or negative. We learn about our duty to each other to practice our parts to near perfection so that our value augments the caliber of the performance. We all have personal experiences with band mates (or perhaps ourselves) who did not put forth a diligent effort in learning their parts and thereby caused an entire performance to suffer. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #7: Personal Responsibility / Punctuality

Life Lesson #6: Situational Awareness

Are you familiar with the music in all of its complexity or are you simply reading one note following another? This level of situational awareness is huge in creating an artistic performance. As teachers, we need to be bringing our students up to this level of awareness and providing them the tools needed to research, study, and practice on their own to this end. . . . → Read More: Life Lesson #6: Situational Awareness

Music Life Lesson #5: Getting Along

You can not successfully perform music without constantly observing and reacting to your band-mates. Even the lines and phrases within the composition are a conversation; a cooperative narrative being spun for the audience. Our communication is with the composer (living or dead; present or afar), the audience, and with each other. . . . → Read More: Music Life Lesson #5: Getting Along

Music Life Lesson #4: Critical Thinking

The musician must make constant critical judgments regarding pitch, tone, phrasing, and many other considerations in bringing the music to life. Changes are made from moment to moment based on these judgments to bring the produced sound into alignment with the artist’s perception of “correct”. In life, being able to think on your feet and make crucial decisions correctly and with confidence is a strong trait of leadership. . . . → Read More: Music Life Lesson #4: Critical Thinking