Featured Teacher: John Edwartowski

John EdwartowskiBy Michael Mishler

Instructor: John Edwartowski
Subject: WTMC Band

Q: What made you want to teach at Washtenaw?
A: Because it’s filled with people who want to learn.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Watching students have breakthroughs. It depends on the student: a minor breakthrough for one student might be a major breakthrough for another. Watching them gain confidence and develop techniques and watching them struggle with something, then watching them later do that same thing without struggling.

Q: What interesting books have you read lately?
A: I’m currently reading a book called Death in Wintereise about a song cycle composed by Franz Schubert based on the poems by Euler. I also read a history of “Chocolate and Cheese,” the album by Ween. I’ve been reading a lot of academic articles rather than books, so I read a great article on modulation as a dramatic agent in the music of Frank Loesser and a lot of stuff on jazz harmony. I’m reading so much for my dissertation right now that it sort of runs the gamut.

Q: What is the most exciting thing you’ve done?
A: Parenthood and marriage aside, serving as a resident music director for a sketch comedy and improv company for a decade. I’ve toured the west coast of Mexico and the Caribbean as a music director for that same company. I’ve served as a keyboardist for a show band on a cruise ship, but because my work schedule is only four to six hours a week, I got paid to be a tourist for 18 months, which was great. I dove in the Great Blue Hole in Belize and been ziplining in Acapulco, mountain-climbing, cliff-diving, and any other number of things that have nothing to do with being a musician but come with the job. I lead a charmed life.

Q: What do you do most often in your spare time?
A: I read and I play with my son. I’m trying to teach him to be patient at the piano, but he’s three so that’s an uphill battle. I watch him learn, which is also a very exciting thing. Watching him learn how to do something, then watching him realize that he learned how to do something is ridiculously exciting.

Q: When do you think we’ll get to Mars?
A: In my lifetime, going by average life expectancy, but there are hurdles that we as a species or a society need to overcome to make it worth the trip.

Q: If you won the lottery, how would you spend it?
A: Depending on how much it was, I would buy a farm and turn it into an artist’s retreat where we’d have a gigantic pole-barn equipped to do shows, as well as a recording studio. We’d also have ATVs and outdoor equipment so that if someone need to do something other than be a creative person, they can. Some place out of the way where they can get away with having no responsibility and be true to who they are.

Q: Who was your role model growing up?
A: I’d say that for who I’ve become as a musician and teacher, my older brother who played piano, just by virtue of the fact that I found him moving his hands on the keyboard and making magical sound appear out of this piece of furniture pretty captivating. When I had the opportunity to take piano lessons, that inspirational role was taken over by my teacher who could just improvise entire pieces of music, so my understanding of what it meant to be a musician was changed to be someone who can just speak the music without a script. Often students are asked to duplicate something on a page, and I didn’t realize that the standard that was being set by my teacher was much higher.

Q: What’s your favorite movie and why?
A: I’m obviously a very big fan of the Star Wars series because I grew up with them. I was three when my siblings went to see it, so I was taken as well, but I was asleep by the time the Sand People showed up, so it took a couple trips to see the whole movie.

Q: What advice would you give to the younger generation?
A: The advice I’d give to my younger self is that if anyone asks your older self to give advice to your younger self, don’t give it to them. But I would say do exactly what you’re doing, because not knowing that doing what you’re doing is the right thing is exactly what some people need. I’m happy with how my life is and how it’s worked out, but do I want to say it’s fate or a cosmic plan that I am exactly where I am? I don’t know. I think it’s 50% mystery and 50% design. If i could change the question and say what advice I’d give to the younger generation, I’d say listen more and talk less.



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