Jade’s face peered out at me through the Zoom window, one of 25 faces in an elementary music class that recently went fully remote during the pandemic. Although Jade was only in the fifth grade, she had decided, like many others her age, that she was not into music. Trying to motivate students to learn music during the pandemic was tough, and for a young, new music teacher like myself who wanted all of his students to be engaged in class, Jade presented a challenge.

At the ripe old age of 12 years old, she was already convinced that she wasn’t musically talented. Although Jade was respectful and polite, she made it clear: the only thing she wanted to play was the games on her phone.

I assume I’m not the only one that has struggled to reach certain students in my class, and as students get older, it becomes a hard endeavor. Once they fall behind, they start to feel like they are not good at music and it is not for them, let alone attempting to learn music composition – that’s worse than writing a novel. But what I noticed early in my teaching career is that when kids are excited about telling a story, they figure out a way. They draw comic books. They write phonetically. They tell stories out loud.