Betwixt Code and Music

Switching Gears

August 01, 2015

Well, I am leaving the formal teaching profession to do something completely different. When all of my kiddos and so many friends across the state go back to school in late August, I will also start school. For 12 weeks I will be in an immersive program called The Iron Yard in Austin, Texas. This coding bootcamp is designed to teach me how to graduate with the skills to be a Front-End Developer, which is fancy-talk for someone who makes the parts of websites that everyone can see. When I come up for air around Thanksgiving, I will be taking my skills to a company where I can create cool things and make a difference in my community writ large. My hope is to continue to keep our family in the Dallas area, but we will have to see what happens!

A bit of history leading to this…

My first day of band was in August of 1987 at Sidney Lanier Elementary School in Dallas, Texas. I fell in love with being a musician and especially hitting things to make noise. I spent thousands of hours honing my skills and gaining mastery over various techniques and instruments in the percussion family.

Teaching came as a natural outgrowth of my passion for music learning and performance. Sharing my experiences with others, helping other people have a terrific musical journey, these are things that have been, and continue to be, important to me. So many of my students have been successful both in my presence and further down the road in their musical journey. The entire realm of music has blessed me through performance, teaching, and being around other fantastic humans for so many years. I am certainly thankful to all of my mentors and students and co-workers over the years.

Back to now … the last year has seen me becoming less satisfied with teaching and being around music. For a number of reasons, it stopped being as much fun for me. I was beginning to be annoyed just hearing music on the radio. Car drives were mostly silent. I found myself coming back to a question I had turned over in my mind for several years: “Should I do something else instead of teach music?” I tried unsuccessfully to switch environments to possibly re-create that love of teaching and music. My mind turned to other things.

As I searched through things that I enjoyed doing and learning about, I kept coming back to computers. My uncle Ricky gave me an old TRS-80 computer when I was about nine or ten years old. The BASIC programming language was like Greek to me, but I continued to plug away at it and learned to make my way around the file system. Later in middle school I had “Computer Literacy” with Mr. Mulkey where we learned to turn the computer on and use the basic programs inside. I was always getting in trouble for being 20 steps ahead of the teacher. In high school I had Mr. Richards for “Computer Science I” where we learned Turbo PASCAL. (I also sat between my future wife and her best friend in this class - a cute distraction to my right!) In 12th grade my “Computer Science II” teacher was an angry lady who became a teacher from what seemed to me like necessity instead of passion. I lost my motivation as a student of computers and threw myself into the music studies that much more.

My music career has been wild - many schools in many types of communities and districts. Some of the best people I have ever known were co-workers at different schools. I have loved it! It has been a lot of fun to be a significant part of so many families’ lives. My time spent as a member of the Troopers and Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps was a blast. My time as a performer and conductor with ensembles performing at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) still means so much to me. I will always love music and teaching.

Special thanks to my amazing wife for continuing to support me through this crazy life. She continues to be a devoted and selfless person for our family’s needs. My children are interested in coding and have been taking an interest in learning more and more. Like dad, they are endlessly curious about things, constantly reading books and learning. What a blessing to be able to learn new things each day! No matter what, they will be in band. Those are experiences that all children should have! Isaac is already working hard on his french horn skills. Alexis is still deciding which instrument will pick her at the end of this school year. Olivia runs around the house pretending to play every instrument!

You never know … maybe I find a new passion has been ignited that I enjoy and can get paid to do … or maybe I am clicking sticks in front of a drum line in a few years after all! I am always listening and trying to go the right way.

If you feel like supporting a future hacker/coder, then feel free to peruse my Amazon wish list. Regardless, please drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter. Now, some percussion posts to get to…

Michael D. Mathew.

Written by Mike Mathew who lives and works in Dallas building useful things. Sometimes he posts on Mastodon. Mike also wears many hats at Presto Assistant where he is a co-founder, owner, and product engineer.