The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Julianna Mateyko, Director of Support and Training for MusicFirst

By Leslie Buttonow

Julianna Mateyko is a music educator, but not in the traditional sense.

Formerly a school music and band teacher, Mateyko is now on a career path that has taken her outside the school band room doors and into a role where she can combine her music training and experience (she’s also a classical saxophonist) with her love of technology. As the Director of Support and Training for MusicFirst, Mateyko provides training to music educators who are integrating technology into their classrooms via the MusicFirst Online Classroom.

MusicFirst offers music teachers and their students affordable, cloud-based solutions that enable music learning, creation, assessment, sharing, and exploration on any device at anytime, anywhere. While the tools are easy to use, Mateyko offers guidance, reassurance and tech support to educators who have no technology experience or who are new to the MusicFirst platform and can benefit from her help to get them up to speed. A huge advocate for the benefits of technology in the classroom, she also delivers tech-based seminars and demos at various education conferences throughout the country each year.

Below, Mateyko shares her journey from teaching high school band to supporting a network of music educators around the country.

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WiMN: Tell us a bit about your musical background growing up, and the impact that music had on you.

JM: My first instrument was clarinet, in the 5th grade. As I moved up to middle school, I was asked if I could play tenor saxophone by my soon-to-be-band director. I jumped at the chance, not realizing the tenor was as large as my entire body, but it was amazing. I met my best friends through music and found a way of expressing myself through music because I was supported and encouraged to keep trying, play loud, and take solos.

WiMN: How did you begin to develop your interest in rolling technology into the music classroom? What are some benefits you feel it brings to both educators and students?

JM: My “student of technology in music classrooms” began in graduate school. One of my first classes was dedicated to studying an audience and creating a tool that teachers can use. That first dive connected me with a growing community of people I still work with. I think the access allowed with cloud-based technology is incredibly important. Students should have as many chances as possible to create, even without advanced theory skills or notation knowledge. Tech helps with that AND students can create on any device they have available.

WiMN: How did your career path lead you to working for MusicFirst?

JM: Director Jim Frankel did a guest lecture in one of my graduate courses. We reconnected at a PD [Professional Development] day for NYC teachers and he requested I apply, after remembering me from his lectures a few semesters prior. I’m glad I took the opportunity to explore music education separate from being a formal classroom teacher.

WiMN: What are some of your main responsibilities there?

JM: I am the Director of Support and Training, so my primary directive is to work with teachers who have purchased the software to make sure they’re successful and confident as they get started. I really feel like I’m using my education chops, but in a different way than teaching children.

WiMN: What is one of your favorite things to work on at MusicFirst?

JM: Working with teachers directly and completing trainings, whether in person or online. I love hearing about different experiences teachers have, different layouts of schedules and classes, and heading down the line about student engagement and excitement while using the MusicFirst tool.

WiMN: While education has traditionally been a fielding in which many women work, the technology sector has traditionally been male dominated. Have you ever had challenges as a woman working with technology in terms of discrimination? If so, how did you handle it?

JM: I’m grateful that in my immediate field, I’ve been given autonomy and trust to take action and work on my own projects. My colleagues are the best and have always solicited and respected my advice. I do travel quite a bit and am almost always the only woman in tech on the road. I am always aware of this aspect (though I am friends with many female teachers, as well as fellow women in the industry–an increasing number through the years) and make sure that I’m asserting myself and introducing myself. Our world is rather niche, so the boys club goes back a ways. I make sure my name is known and my good work is known and try to participate as much as possible.

WiMN: How do you think music technology will shape the next generation of musicians who are the students of today?

JM: We are giving children so many tools to succeed. They can compose using notation software that plays back sounds of instruments they don’t physically play. They can compose using DAWs with no notation experience. So much is free and can be found online. I’m truly hoping that these tools move students away from thinking (as I did) that they only way to compose and create was to be an aloof, eclectic genius with a pencil and staff paper. I hope this freedom to try new things creates many opportunities for growth.