By Carjamin Scott, EdD
NASHVILLE, TN — Franklin Willis, an influential educator, is an elementary music school coach for Metro Nashville Public Schools, he supports over 90 teachers with curriculum, instruction, sectionals, rehearsals, and nearly everything music related. His mission is to change the narrative about elementary school music. He specializes in providing musical instruction that will empower and engage all children to achieve at their best. “People need to realize that this is their child’s introduction to music and an opportunity for a well-rounded elementary school experience,” says Willis.
Prior to this role, Willis served as an elementary music teacher, a position that he loved because of his relationships with children and families. “The study of music is a unique creative experience that provides opportunities to reinforce skills and concepts of other disciplines, while developing lifelong learning skills,” said Willis. Outside of work, Willis has formed The Voices of Children Choir. Its’ members are children from fourth through sixth grade. His plan is to encourage the children to step out their comfort zones and step into who they are. According to Willis, our children have the “it factor.” He wants to give students an opportunity to shine outside of school. “Music is the pathway to help students go higher, further, and wiser in life. It helps students achieve,” he said.
This is important to Willis because, “I was a kid who had talent but was afraid to use it. It wasn’t until tenth grade that I met a teacher that tapped into my music potential. Music is how I expressed myself.” Willis wishes that he would have known sooner and is dedicated to tapping into the musical potential of his students early. Willis mentioned, “Music education leaders of color are limited, I want to be sure that our students are mentored and nurtured.” Willis wants to make sure that children of color have someone to serve as an advocate for them and help them express their musical talents.
“Now that I have a son, I look at things differently,” as a parent, Willis has witnessed the obstacles that children of color face at school. He believes that a “cultural thing” is missing. He wants to children to see themselves in music books, on posters, and leading the classroom. He wants children to have success no matter their zip code. “Bordeaux kids are just as talented as Franklin kids, we just need to be sure that our curriculum is relevant,” says Willis.
Willis uses every opportunity he can to connect with students. “Our kids listen to Cardi B, Nikki, and Missy, you can’t dismiss their music or you will dismiss the kids.” Willis continued, “Old Town Road was the #1 song on the music charts for 20 weeks, of course, I am going to find a way to use that song with my kids.” In 2019, Willis’ choir performed at the 2019 Country Music Association Festival for an audience of 60,000 fans. His students have been featured on the ABC News Special: Teachers Rock alongside recording artist and country music icon Carrie Underwood and on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
Willis’ favorite quote is, “Success is never owned, it is only rented and the rent is due every day.” For Willis, his work in music education is due every day and nothing will stop him from continuing. “I am passionate that the cultivation of musicianship begins at a young age and that every child has musical potential.”
For more information on Franklin Willis, visit his website: https://www.fwillismusic.com/
Carjamin Scott interviews influential educators for The Tennessee Tribune. To be featured, email [email protected]