Music teacher brings life experience to the classroom

Phoenix Rose, left, is a music teacher at Wright Elementary School and is also the founder of Are Uke Crazy? where he teaches kids and adults how to play the ukulele.

Phoenix Rose is a music teacher at Bill W. Wright Elementary School, a musician and the founder of Are Uke Crazy? and makes it his mission to inspire kids, and adults, to enjoy music — even if an instrument isn’t available. 

Rose earned his degree in performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston and while there decided he wanted to find ways to do music and help pay some bills.

“I went to college for a little while and I was also looking for ways to help pay off some of my bills, so I ended up getting a job working on cruise ships performing [in 2013],” Rose said. “So I was trying to finish school online while performing on the cruise ships. We would port in like Mexico for four or five hours and I would just be sitting on my laptop trying to finish these courses. It was really great to get that experience of performing, still getting the education, and meeting tons of people.”

One of those people he met was his now fiancé, Danielle O’Donnell, who is a teacher at Springtown ISD.

“When I met her it was just an instantly head-over-heels moment,” Rose said. 

When Rose wasn’t on cruise ships he was teaching private lessons and after college got his first teaching job at a school in Houston.

“I did a little guitar after school thing there and that really started the wheels for teaching,” Rose said. “I had teaching in the back of my mind for a while and I really wanted to get involved in education, but I wanted to have more experience. I wanted to bring something out of the world to the school environment.”

Rose ended his cruise ship career in 2016 and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he continued to play gigs, teach lessons and then got a job in sales. 

“I did some door-to-door sales for the experience,” Rose said. “That was actually the thing that stood out on my resume when I interviewed at [Wright Elementary].”

Rose said the thing that clicked everything together was a program called FineArtsMatter. 

“It has programs that replace music programs — because a lot of schools have taken out their music programs or don’t have a strong one — and they would get people like myself and give you a tub of instruments, train you a little bit and then give you a list of five schools to travel to,” Rose said. “That was very different for me at first because I was used to one-on-one teaching, but it was definitely an eye-opener.”

In spring 2017, Rose applied for the music teacher position at Wright Elementary.

“We had an interview and it went really well. The principal here, Mr. [Tra] Hall is an amazing administrator,” Rose said. “He’s super supportive of the value that music brings to the school and that was a really big thing for me. [Sales] was the thing that stood out on my resume because really you’re selling your kids on an idea. You’re selling your kids on that music is a really fun thing to do and you should do it more.”

Hall said Rose fit the profile the school was looking for in the music teaching position.

“We were looking for an energetic and innovative music teacher to provide exciting and non-traditional experiences for our students,” Hall said. “Phoenix brings life and energy through music to our students. He provides exciting experiences that help our students fall in love with music. Music is essential to education because it is foundational to what it means to be human. It is also foundational for literacy development and socialization.”

Rose teaches about 560 kids at the school with 45-minute classes.

“In that 45 minutes it has to hit them in a way where they think music is awesome,” Rose said. “I try to not make it too much about the instruments, I try to really focus on the music that’s in you because a lot of kids aren’t able to have instruments at home. We just try to do as much as we can to get the music inside of you.”

Rose has kids use their voices and dance, but also has a unique set of instruments to assist in the learning process like a slide whistle, bucket drums, tub-like instruments and ukuleles.

Hall said the school’s value of the month has been initiative and that the word describes Rose. 

“He took initiative to start guitar club, Uke Crazy camp and combined music and PE,” Hall said. “Phoenix is always upbeat, kind and passionate about kids first and music second. Our students are blessed to have such energy and passion in their music teacher.”

Rose and O’Donnell founded Are Uke Crazy? which teaching kids and adults how to play the ukulele using step-by-step curriculum for beginners and advanced players.

“Uke Crazy has been an amazing ride so far. I can’t pinpoint a day when it actually started because it was just a fun little thing that I had going,” Rose said. “I was actually teaching the daughter of another teacher at this school and she had a ukulele and was looking for a teacher and originally I was thinking as a separate thing from school to have a ukulele club. I found out there wasn’t really anything available for a summer class and so I decided to do a ukulele camp and I still don’t know where the name Uke Crazy came from. I think the idea behind it was, ‘Uke to think you’re going to get many kids to sign up for the camp,’ but this was in May of last year so that’s when it really started.”

Rose said the first camp was a success and has been offered more courses that started this month.

Rose also does a guitar club for students where he came up with his own framework to teach with.

“Guitar club and Uke Crazy camp have been wildly popular after school clubs,” Hall said. “Our students love music class and are excited to experience music with Mr. Rose every day.”

More information about Are Uke Crazy? can be found by visiting www.ukecrazy.org.

Recommended for you