We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Felicity Muench a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Felicity, appreciate you joining us today. What’s one of the most important lessons you learned in school?
My education through graduate school was filled with many lessons, but perhaps the essential ones happened during elementary school. I loved learning but was quiet and shy and never felt like I fit in. I would sit near the back of the classroom, imagining I had the superpower of invisibility. Not knowing I was dyslexic, I never understood why it was so difficult for me to read and write. I knew I was not like the other kids during class every day.
The profound lessons happened after the final bell rang. I had to stay at school until 5:00, waiting for my father to pick me up. It was during this time I could shine. Every day I would ask my teacher if I could help her with classroom chores, and she always said yes. I sat on the floor with children’s books scattered around, carefully figuring out how to best organize them on the shelves. I happily stood on a wooden chair, reaching high to wipe the chalk off the blackboard. I made sure there was enough colored chalk readily available for the next day. My teacher and I would tell jokes and talk while she worked at her desk. She took extra time to help me with spelling, writing, and arithmetic. She sparked my imagination by telling me stories. When the janitor walked by whistling a song, he would stop and let me gleefully sing along. I could go outside and swing as high as the sky, thrilled when the chain buckled. I was learning about connection, joy, responsibility, freedom, and trust. I was appreciated. I felt heard and seen and proud to be a helper. I was happy. It is moments like this where great teachers and mentors can inspire and love a child into being.
The support, trust, and care during these formative years gave me the confidence to believe in myself. I loved being of service to my teacher, which helped form my love of teaching, which now has expanded into the global education nonprofit, One Voice 4 Change.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
From eleven, I knew I wanted to teach guitar and make music my career. At sixteen, I started teaching in a music store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I continued my music, receiving Bachelor’s and Masters’s degrees in guitar at the University of New Mexico and California State University, Northridge. During this time, I sought out every experience to learn about pedagogy, the psychology of teaching, and the business skills I would need to succeed.
I love teaching music because I am part of the students growth, joy, and struggle. There is an incredible connection when music is being learned and played. I helped a man dying of cancer, with only a few months to live, learn to play his favorite song, “For the Good Times,” so he could sing it to his wife. Guitar lessons helped a young boy learn to speak as I gently encouraged him to sing with me. I gave lessons to a prostitute in L.A. who gained the courage and confidence to go back to school and start on a new path. I taught an enthusiastic deaf girl who loved feeling the vibrations of the notes through the guitar in her body. People need encouragement, connection, and the ability to trust that a teacher will help them learn without judgment. Music has the magic to touch one’s soul and transform hearts. I get to be part of their journey.
My flexibility and ability to teach children as young as four and seniors into their eighties contribute to my full-time teaching schedule. There are very few female guitar teachers, which also helps keep a full studio.
The joy of teaching and a lifetime of experience led to the formation of the nonprofit One Voice 4 Change, Inc. Our education system is in crisis, and as a teacher, I knew I could do more. I wanted to reach more students and help develop new ways that students globally could learn through global collaboration and imagination. The mission of One Voice 4 Change: Bring equal learning opportunities to children by creating worldwide educational partnerships that inspire learning and global citizenship.
Co-founder Dr. Gregg Cannady and I have established learning partnerships in Belize, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, the UK, Costa Rica, and the U.S. We listen to students, access needs, and provide resources needed for students to collaborate on student-driven projects collaborating with facilitating teachers, industry mentors, and other students globally.
We’d love to hear about how you met your business partner.
Music often brings people together, and it was precisely this that brought Gregg Cannady and me together in our One Voice 4 Change adventures. Gregg asked me to perform in a concert that he was conducting in 2017. An impactful and powerful song, written by a high school student, and based on the message of Malala Yousafzai, closed the concert with a standing ovation. That song was “One Voice.” The message and power of that one song connected Gregg and me and was the engine that started One Voice 4 Change.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
One Voice 4 Change operates from core values of dignity, respect, trust, and integrity. We never waiver on our values. We keep our word and work together as a team, despite challenges. The team supports each other, operates with kindness and patience, takes responsibility, and is dedicated to the mission.
The students, teachers, mentors, and industry partners we work with can rely on us because of our values and dedication to the mission. Our donors witness the miracle in learning that we provide students globally.
Our reputation has grown because of our mission, outstanding team, collaborations, and accountability to every aspect of our work.
Karen Pring Photography