Paul Brewster: Music teacher at Oswego Middle School

Photo Provided by Paul Brewster

1. You work with the chorus at Oswego Middle School. Have you always taught music?
Yes, I have been teaching music for 23 years. I went to Nazareth College for music education and then moved on to SUNY Brockport for a degree in interdisciplinary arts, which includes dance, theatre and art, as well. I have taught in all education levels, from pre-k to 12th grade. I was inspired to teach music by my own musical experiences and the different music educators that I had; my Hornell High School teachers Patti Piper (music) and Tim Berardi (theatre and English).

2. Tell us about the Con Brio Vocal Ensemble that you head.
It’s an extracurricular select audition chorus. We use it as a means to keep jazz, the old standards and Broadway tunes alive. It consists of seventh and eighth graders who perform at various events throughout the community. We perform at nursing homes, sporting events and museums. Every year we do a “Cabaret Night” dessert theatre. We manage to turn the orchestra room into a restaurant with waiters and everything.

3. Do you approach students that you think may be a good fit for the Con Brio program or do they come to you?
It is open to anyone in chorus to audition. We like to keep it balanced among seventh and eighth graders. The group has ranged from 18-40 people.

4. How do you incorporate the characteristics of The Positivity Project – which encourages positive character strengths – into teaching music?
Music is so many different things. I teach general music education as well, which gives me the opportunity to teach students to respect and understand different cultures. Music can be seen in many different ways and it allows us to explore our humanity.

5. Being that there are less positions per school, what advice would you give to those pursuing music education to stand out?
I would advise that they be open to exploring and teaching all aspects of music. So many people spend most of their time learning one genre, for example classical music. It is important to have an understanding of all areas of music. The more knowledge and experience you have, the more you can bring to your students.

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