I believe that in order to develop musical excellence, students must be taught through a musical means of sound and sensation to gain understanding and experience, rather than through a technical, black-and-white approach where something is “right” or “wrong.” I believe that most students already have all the music and technique they need inside of them; they just need a good instructor to help them pull it out, recognize it, and then coordinate it into a holistic system of musicianship and technique.
Based on this philosophy, I generally teach my students first from a musical stand point. I guide my students as they search for the musical gestures and phrases, and help them to create the most interesting and dramatic musical ideas possible. I also aim to develop my students’ listening and feeling sensations so they can improve their concept of tone, evaluate the success of their performance, and answer whether or not they created the sound they wanted to hear. This kind of teaching helps keep students engaged, enabling them to take ownership of their work and become enthusiastic participants in the learning process.
While addressing the music is my most important priority in lessons, I also am sure to spend a sufficient amount of time addressing the specifics of clarinet technique and fundamentals. After over three years of teaching privately and almost two years of studying clarinet pedagogy as a teaching assistant at Florida State University, I have developed effective methods of teaching clarinet technique and have been successful at helping students master many of these difficult skills. Furthermore, I make practice strategies a big part of my students’ curriculum. By teaching effective practice strategies, I can instill in my students the skills they need to become their own teacher: critical and creative thinking, problem solving skills, time management, persistence and motivation. In this way, students learn that they are capable of confronting challenges and overcoming them. They can succeed! The music and technique are already inside them; they just need an experienced instructor to help lead them to success.
Apart from helping my students develop as excellent clarinetists, I strive to impress upon them why it is so important that we make music. As humans, we make music because it is fun; it brings us pleasure and enjoyment; we can communicate with each other and tell stories with it; and it is a way for us to build strong relationships and vibrant communities. When we learn to make music we also become better thinkers, better listeners, and more compassionate and empathetic people. As a teacher, helping my student become great musicians is important, but helping them become great people is equally important.