As an educator, I have a philosophy that is rooted in both existentialism and social justice. My students will develop a better awareness of the self and their world, cultivating a connection between the individual and community by participating in educational activities that emphasize interpersonal relationships and analysis of cultural dynamics. Music is form of communication- whether it is nonverbal or not; whether the message is an emotion or a story. Music has been used as a vehicle to communicate calls for change and justice throughout history, and would like to have discussions about purpose in music.

Personally, I was raised in the working-class community of El Monte, California. I am a second-generation Asian-American male born to a Thai mother and a Chinese father. Despite being a child of immigrant parents, English was almost exclusively used due to the biracial household. I was a cultural “melting pot”- I played baseball, soccer, basketball, and football as a child, but like most Asian-American children, I participated in music-making from a young age, starting my formal study of the piano at age five.

From the beginning of my music-making career, I've had diverse experiences as a musician and a human being that intertwined to create my current philosophies. At age nine, I started playing jazz music; at age eleven, when I entered middle school, I started learning the trombone. The next year, I taught myself how to play the guitar, starting a track that would eventually lead to my involvement as a singer-songwriter and as a rock musician. In high school, I was a fully engaged musician- at the peak of my high school experience, I was simultaneously participating in my school’s concert band, jazz band, Latin jazz combo, winter percussion ensemble, and district honor band. I pursued double majors in piano performance and instrumental music education in college, gaining a reputation as a collaborative pianist and as a keyboardist in local bands. I participated in community service, coordinating benefit concerts for underfunded public school music programs as a member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity and volunteering at a social justice info center in my local community.

All these experiences shaped my views as an educator. I've always viewed education and knowledge as the currency of power and as an equalizer for the socio-economically disadvantaged. I believe that every student has the capacity to learn and achieve high levels of success, with proper support. My classroom will provide a safe zone to all students with equal opportunities for success and growth. In the interest of creating an inclusive music education program, I am constantly thinking about how to make participation in music-making more accessible to the general student body. By teaching music, I will teach life skills, self-discovery, and a unique skillset that will enrich students’ education and provide a second voice through which students can communicate.

-Nathan Phung