Since 2017, mdw alum Bernhard Jaretz has been working as a music teacher at the Ella Lingens Gymnasium, a Viennese academic secondary school, where he founded a music specialisation. He also heads the Choir School at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, founded the Vienna Lakeside Music Academy in the newly developed Viennese neighbourhood Seestadt Aspern in 2014, serves as choir director of the contemporary opera ensemble Neue Oper Wien, and authors school textbooks and instructional videos. Bernhard Jaretz spoke with mdw Magazine about his responsibilities as a music teacher and the importance of artistic training for teachers of music as a school subject.
“Becoming a school music teacher had always been my goal,” recalls the mdw-alumnus and passionate educator Bernhard Jaretz. “I was lucky to have had an enthusiastic music teacher during my years of upper cycle schooling who really supported and encouraged me, which led me to think: that is exactly what I want to do someday, too.” It was thanks to this music teacher that he already picked up some initial skills such as arranging pieces and leading a choir while still in school. Later on at the mdw, he likewise encountered people who provided him with motivation and support. The compulsory coursework for future schoolteachers aiming to teach music and instrumental music along with voluntary participation in additional offerings provided the Vienna native with the tools he needed to achieve his present-day success. “I took the time to get a taste of everything the mdw had to offer. I didn’t manage that within the minimum duration of study. In hindsight, though, it was the right approach.” For one thing, his volunteer work in the mdw’s children’s and youth choir afforded him insights into the realities of teaching. “In the major subject of conducting, you work mainly with students who can already sight sing—but that’s not reality. I spent something like four or five years working for the children’s and youth choir at the mdw’s Vienna Choir School without receiving any ECTS credits for my efforts. But it did give me the opportunity to rehearse with children and teenagers, gain some real-life teaching experience, and learn how to organise and prepare for rehearsals.”
The high quality of artistic instruction is something truly unique about the mdw’s programme and makes us experts who can rely on our specialised knowledge in the classroom.
A further important factor in this successful conductor’s training as an educator was the equal emphasis on his training as an artist. “The high quality of artistic instruction is something truly unique about the mdw’s programme and makes us experts who can rely on our specialised knowledge in the classroom. And in this, we come across not only as teachers but also as artists who act as role models when we teach and can transfer our enthusiasm for music to our students.” The success he enjoys would suggest he’s right. The music emphasis founded by Jaretz at the Ella Lingens Gymnasium is now entering its fourth year; under his coordination, it’s come to include the school’s own choir, band, orchestra, and musical theatre productions.
You have to take frequent steps out of your comfort zone and try out new things.
As part of his activities as a teacher, Jaretz also develops novel music teaching concepts and passes these on to interested colleagues by way of professional development offerings. “You have to take frequent steps out of your comfort zone and try out new things,” says the enthusiastic music teacher with conviction. “At one school that didn’t have much of a budget, for instance, I tried out bucket drumming and quickly saw how the concept was something my students could really get into. I want the kids to learn that music isn’t something inflexible and elitist but much rather something they can influence themselves, like through their own arrangements.” Looser curricula and syllabi that provide space for flexible music teaching are something that Bernhard Jaretz views as a positive development. “In compulsory lessons, I have to find a suitable overlap between what’s supposed to be taught and what actually interests my students. That’s not always easy because you can’t prepare for it.”
School students deserve to have artists as their role models at school.
As for motivation, what this exceptional educator finds most wonderful is the direct feedback he gets from his students. “We don’t have to wait for a test to see the results of our efforts; we see them in every lesson. And when I notice that something works in class, it makes me happy.” Alongside his school activities, Bernhard Jaretz leads the Choir School at St. Stephen’s Cathedral and also serves as the choir director at Neue Oper Wien, in which capacity he’s responsible for putting together and rehearsing its choral formations. What’s more, he works with various music ensembles at the Vienna Lakeside Music Academy—a music association that he founded himself nine years ago and that has now grown beyond its choir and orchestra to encompass children’s projects, large-scale artistic projects such as staged productions, and a music school. “Not least because of my extensive training at the mdw, I have the option of working as a conductor outside of school, as well.” These multifaceted activities have reciprocal effects: his pedagogical skills are just as useful to him in high-level artistic projects as is his artistic work in terms of how it benefits his work at school. “The enthusiasm that I take with me from my numerous artistic projects is something I pass on in equal measure to my students. And if I can motivate even just one of a class’s children to pursue a musical career, I’ll have been successful.”