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  • Michael J. Rais

Reflect on my hometown


If I listen closely, I can still hear the sounds coming from the electric bass that was resting in my uncle’s arms.

The year was 1989. The school; Hull Elementary. First grade, in my very first year as a Livonia student. This would be the year that I would pick up an electric bass guitar. Most don’t look at a six year old with a burning desire and think, “WOW! Here’s his future,” but it was.

I am Livonia. This is my home, my community, my culture. It is here that educators encouraged and fostered my desire for music as well as academics. I knew, at an early age, that this is where I belonged. I’d found my love, and my love needed to be spread to foster and inspire the spark of students where I once stood.

Not many have the opportunity to be where I am today. Each morning I stand on the original podium - (it’s still there!) - where my orchestra teacher stood during my 7th and 8th grade years at Frost Middle School. I can still see myself in the left corner of the music room with my bass in hand, music on my stand, surrounded by my peers who were eager to play. These vivid images inspire and drive me to be the best mentor I can for those who are seated where I once was.

When I graduated from Winston Churchill High School in 2001 with honors in Music, I went on to Wayne State University where I double majored in Performance and Music Education. All the while, I remained a Livonia-Westland resident. I found myself pulled back to the district that molded me in my school years. I continued to build upon my early professional development as a music education student working with students at Frost.

After landing my position as a music teacher at Frost in 2007, it didn’t take long before I was sharing first hand experiences of performing, as an adult, with my students. I want my students to know that the desire for music can go far beyond the classroom and has the capability to last a lifetime.

Early on in my collegiate career, the word “networking” made its way into my philosophy of teaching and performing. I’ve had the privilege of studying under many great musicians and educators from Wayne State, Adrian College, and Vandercook College of Music; composers and conductors both locally and globally; and some of the biggest names to emerge from Motown.

It has been in this networking, that I am inspired to build upon opportunities for my musicians. I am proud of the way we have seized opportunities and successes while participating in honors ensembles at Wayne State, Bowling Green, and the Detroit Symphony. I am proud of the performances in solo and ensemble, MSBOA festivals, Music in the Parks, Downriver Percussion Days, and other countless activities in the greater Wayne County community. I am proud of how we have dug deeper into our musical minds through performances at the D.S.O., both Skype and working closely with other composers, educators and musicians, experiencing the art of composing on our own, learning what it takes to be the leader on the podium, and exploring the ever developing aspect of technology in music. The dedication, year after year, from my students continues to inspire me as their teacher, musician and as a person.

Stories of childhood musical experiences are universal. These global stories keep me in tune with outreach to our community for building the programs and opportunities that I do. There will always be a need for the arts. Our students have the opportunity to make a career in music. I always tell my students that you don’t have to become a music teacher or performer, but there are many different careers in music. They have the opportunity to make an impact in the arts. Having the generosity of those who believe in the youth and the future of arts education is an asset to Livonia Public Schools. Thank you, Livonia, for supporting us, all of us. “…for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.” Andres Segovia (classical guitarist)


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