Philosophy of Education
I started teaching at age twenty-three because I wanted to help students experience that moment when the light bulb turns on and they are inspired to pursue their craft further. My role as a teacher is to guide and assist in expanding the current knowledge of each of my students, as well as their love and appreciation for their craft. To accomplish this goal with students I constantly strive to maintain the highest level of excellence in all aspects of my musical career. In addition to developing what works for my playing, I also observe and research what other members of the musical community are doing to help their students.
When I first start working a student I begin by having them play simple melodies or etudes to see what their foundation is on their instrument. I slowly increase the difficulty until their strengths and weaknesses are clear. After that, I work with each student to build a personal and unique plan to build their strengths and develop their weaknesses. People process concepts in different ways and digest information at various speeds, and although this is not a problem it is something I feel that it is very important to understand when teaching students at any level. Being aware of these differences allows for the collection of multiple healthy pedagogical techniques to use with students, and discover what works best for them. For example, my student John can play just about anything he wants on the horn. He’s very intelligent and has a high level of technique, but his tone is a consistent work-in-progress. With this student, I do a lot of exercises where we play for each other, him working to imitate my playing. I also have him record himself to hear if what he is doing is actually what he wants to do. This, combined with listening to quality musicians has slowly and consistently helped him develop his playing over the past three years.
In the classroom, I maintain a high-energy environment in order to engage students, inspire creativity, and promote a sustained, high-quality level of work. My goal is to help students feel that drive and inspiration in music making that inspires me. While teaching brass methods at Temple University, my student Garrick had a severe under-bite, which affected his approach to playing – it needed to be different than that of his colleagues. His initial embouchure setup coming into the class was not successful. I worked with him on shifting his playing position to better suit his jaw structure. As a result, he was able to complete playing assignments required for class and develop a personal approach to playing that would be more successful in the future.
Developing a student’s sound and musical approach takes time and diligent study. Studying multiple areas of music such as history, theory, and culture will help in performance practice and musical expression. I promote listening to a wide range of professional musicians and musical styles to develop a concept of how an individual wants to sound. The clearer the concept of sound that a student has directly increases the opportunity for successful performance.
Student development happens at different rates and although I do not believe in talent, I believe some things come easier to some than others, so some students will have to work harder at a different aspect of their craft than others. Work ethic is something that is required in every field and is just as important as any other aspect of a given craft that a student will learn and develop. Above all else, I believe that education should be approached in a healthy manner with a marriage between an enjoyable, personal fulfillment and organized discipline. These main aspects of my approach to education and pedagogy are something that I will continue to refine, expand, and develop.