T e a c h i n g P h i l o s o p h y
I believe that the purpose of education is to give students the skills to mindfully interact with the world around them. Education is not just about the student’s chosen career path. I believe my role as a teacher is to give my students the tools to create the life they want for themselves as professionals in the music industry and as adults in the general society. I aim to help students build their skills in critical thinking, self-regulation, compassionate conversation, and mindful reflection. These are life skills that will benefit the student regardless of career path and also give students a professional attitude that makes them appealing to employers and colleagues.
Critical thinking skills are built by asking students to constantly reflect on their own work and evaluate information in front of them. This includes in-class discussion on assignments and readings and practice journals in which the student writes daily notes on what they found worked and did not work in their instrumental practice session. These journals are regularly turned in to me so I can offer ideas of improvement. I see self-regulation as the process of creating healthy self-discipline in the practice room. I have found that when I help my students set up a practice routine template, the students are able to take more control over how their practice fits within their schedule, thus making them more successful in the practice room. Finally, compassionate conversation is a fundamental life skill. A mind open to diverse experiences, opinions, and musical approaches is a mind that will be respected. I have worked with numerous professionals who have not extended this respect to others and therefore are not called to return for the job. Conversations within my classroom are expected to be handled with professional courtesy. I see myself as the moderator for these conversations.
I have found many of my students learn best by being given concepts, seeing those concepts demonstrated to them, trying out the concepts themselves, and then reviewing what they discovered after the experiences. This has been my primary flow in studio teaching. For example, when I show a student how to create a more secure embouchure, I first demonstrate my example by showing my whistle and embouchure-tightening process. I then have the student repeat what I have done on their own. I ask the student questions about what they are physically doing to connect their minds to the physiological changes. This mindful engagement allows proper habits to form. When mindfulness becomes habit, a student can begin to discipline themself in their own work. I believe that mindful engagement connects all of the above skills in a student’s brain and is essential in developing professional habits.
I believe that my job as a teacher is to give my students the skills to no longer need a teacher. These skills are crucial in professional development. This is why they are at the forefront of my teaching. I do my best to ensure each student is given the tools to succeed.
My bassoon curriculum consists of three larger portions: private lessons, reed-making sessions, and studio classes. These sections each contribute to the student’s professional development. Some aspects may be combined with the others, such as reed-making help during private lessons, but having separate times for each allows me to give each student appropriate attention.
I customize private lesson curriculum for each student based on their skills and needs, but I approach that construction with three core goals: develop technique, build musical intuition, and introduce each era and genre at an appropriate time. I help each student build a warm-up routine that they can accomplish every day. Each of my undergraduate students should expect to learn or re-visit the standard pieces in our repertoire including the Mozart concerto, the Saint-Säens sonata, at least one Vivaldi concerto, a 20th century French piece, and a piece post-1950. It is important that my students learn performance practice skills, so at least one piece from each era must be included within the years they are with me. In addition to their solo repertoire and the warm-up routine, I assist my students in selecting appropriate etudes that help bridge both technique and musical development. In an effort to give students more control over their curriculum, I allow my students to choose their set of etudes once they have completed the Milde scale and concert studies. Each student will be different in their lesson curriculum based on a variety of factors. I do my best to build a lesson curriculum that is both reasonable and stimulating.
My instrumental studio classes include a varied schedule of performance classes, literature discussions, mock orchestral audition prep and practice, and guest masterclasses. A variety of class discussions keeps students engaged and allows us to continue finding the most relevant information. These classes are also a good space to discuss daily issues that professional musicians face such as marketing and entrepreneurship, injuries and overuse, and handling stress.