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I view myself as a concepts teacher, in that I put great importance on having my students understand why a given approach will help them grow as musicians. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to many different methods of pedagogy over the years, which have given me a vast foundational catalogue to reference, adapt and develop concepts from when working with students. Ergo, my teaching philosophy would best be characterized by the following: connection, curiosity, independence and growth.
Teaching a new student for the first time is an exploration for both parties involved. I view my initial charge as finding connections that will enable a student to progress beginning with the very first lesson. Learning how to relate to students is paramount to my philosophy. Helping them view their strengths and weaknesses as equal opportunities for growth allows them to connect their present ability with the level they desire to achieve. I teach in a kinesthetic way, which optimizes the student’s physicality. A longtime proponent of functional integration, I am convinced that the key to playing an instrument is understanding how the body moves; when we integrate movement, tension the body melts away allowing us to become more efficient and expressive players. I emphasize the connections between technique and musicality; tactus and phrasing; fluidity and consistency; tradition and innovation; and ultimately, practice and performance.
The expression "two steps forward, one step back" describes the progress we sometimes experience while playing an instrument. I have learned that fostering a curiosity in my students keeps them motivated and on track, especially when the path forward seems unclear. Responding in a curious way to our struggles allows us to stay engaged, less frustrated and in that discovery zone where we are most creative. Viewing mistakes as potential light-bulb moments waiting to happen reframes them as necessary parts of mastering our instrument, rather than as insurmountable obstacles. To this end, I encourage students to seek out other interpretations, performance styles and even entirely foreign genres to diversify their knowledge base and widen their perspective. Curiosity breeds successful musicians.
If the spirit of discovery is to be sustained with our instruments, it is crucial for students to be able to make decisions for themselves. As such, I structure lesson plans to foster independence in students. Just as there is no ideal student, there is no singular way to teach an instrument. My method is comprised of a time-proven and progressively more challenging regimen of rudimentary exercises, etudes, repertoire and physical activity inspired by my studies in Feldenkrais. Students must play a major role in the direction of their education if they are to be successful. Ideally, most discoveries should happen in a student’s practice sessions, not in lessons. My crucial function as teacher is to coach a student on how to notice when these moments occur, so that he or she can build on them with the technical tools we’ve developed in lessons.
The common thread throughout my teaching philosophy is the idea of growth. This is the most valuable aspect of musical study, and perhaps life as a whole. The best part about growth is that it can always happen. With consistent encouragement, students will come to realize their potential is unlimited. Being able to share in these beautiful experiences through this craft is why I teach, as connecting through music brings us closer to our humanity.
And while instrumental study can instill within us a sense of discipline, prepare us for a career in the arts and improve our coordination skills through building neurological connections in the brain, fundamentally - even heroically - music teaches and prepares us for life's lessons.