Alumni Interview with Kristen Nunes

Name: Kristen Nunes

Major at Berklee: Music Education

Graduation Date: 2006

Position Title: Kindergarten Music Specialist

Employer: Chelsea Public Schools

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of in your career thus far?

I teach music to between 700 and 750 kindergarteners a year, to a very diverse population in Chelsea. My students’ smiles and joyful giggles in my classroom are my greatest accomplishments, without a doubt. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your current job?

I would have to say that maintaining the energy level I need to teach so many students is my greatest challenge. I spend a good amount of time exercising to try to keep up with so many little ones! Apart from the sheer physical side of things, teaching in an urban setting is sometimes difficult emotionally. My colleagues and I face many challenges, but we try to focus on the good we can do in our classrooms.  

What would you say are the top requirements (skills, mind-set, etc.) for someone entering this line of work? 

Patience, kindness, and the ability to stay level-headed. There are few occupations as emotional as teaching and it is sometimes difficult to think objectively in the moment. It is also important to be a highly skilled musician and to continue to practice your instrument(s) throughout your years teaching. 

What is a normal day like in your line of work (assuming there is such a thing as a normal day)?

A normal day, huh! 

I arrive at school around 7:30 a.m., teach four kindergarten classes, eat lunch, teach two more kindergarten classes, then head home around 3:00 p.m. I’m always researching and looking for new ideas to use in my classroom, so often I find myself doing so in the evenings. A variety of situations can arise in class, and my day is certainly filled with laughter. Kids really do say the funniest things! 

What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? 

This varies greatly depending on the school system, but first-year teachers should expect to make somewhere between $40,000-$50,000 a year. 

This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? 

Technology has enabled me to access music from all over the world. As teachers of young students, we strive to make our students part of the global community. By listening to and engaging in a wide variety of music, our students’ ears and mind are opened to what’s around them. 

How has your Berklee experience prepared you for what you are doing today?

The music education program at Berklee is excellent. I had a rigorous course load and so many wonderful professors who helped me through all of the challenges I faced. As a Berklee student, I had the unique opportunity to interact with and hear music of so many different people, which I consider to be so important. I absolutely loved my experience at Berklee.

If you could offer just one piece of career advice to students, what would it be? 

We have to enter the field of teaching each day with as much patience and kindness as possible, and keep our joy for music central to our teaching. Focus on singing and playing expressively, because in order for our students to become lifelong learners of music, they must also learn to sing and play expressively. Choose your materials for your classroom wisely, with a varied repertoire of well-made, beautiful music so that our students engage not only in the elements of the music, but also the artful element that lies below the surface of it.