Self expression is vital for every person, no matter the medium. I believe the purpose of my job as an educator is to help my students find their own voice and express themselves through the medium of music. My goal in teaching each student is not to make them the next Principal Trumpet of the Chicago Symphony. Although, I would not be upset if that happened! Instead, my goal is to equip each student with the tools to become the best musician, self-teacher, and person they can be. The skills learned in music, such as accountability, time management, perseverance, and most importantly communication are invaluable skills that are essential for success in virtually every facet of life.
1. Self expression: This is the ultimate goal for every musician. Each person has a unique and important voice to express. The best musicians are the ones who have figured out how to get the ideas in their head to translate into the sound waves that we identify as music. I always try to remind my students what the overall objective is for private lessons. Arnold Jacobs, legendary tuba player of the Chicago Symphony and renowned pedagogue perhaps said it best that music comes “first, last, and always.”
2. Technique as a facilitator for expression: It is easy to get bogged down and discouraged by the difficulties of improving technique. Many can view issues with technique as a barrier that keeps a musician from achieving their potential. I prefer to view technique as a tool- a facilitator for expression. Every musician will spend the rest of their life finding new ways to improve their tools. The limitless nature of musical progress is perhaps the most gratifying aspect of being a musician.
3. Personalized instruction: It is no secret that every student learns differently. Additionally, each student has a different trajectory and their own unique path filled with great strengths and weaknesses. Lessons should always be approached with this in mind. Personalized instruction is key for optimal improvement in each student. Therefore the teacher must be humble, adaptable, knowledgeable, and curious for new methods of improvement.
4. Teaching students to be their own teacher: This is the most important aspect of my teaching. In every lesson I take my students through the process for improving a given musical skill until they know how they must practice it when they are on their own. Most of a student’s progress will come from their diligent individual practice throughout the week- not during our weekly one-hour sessions. The individual work of the student is what makes the improvement, not the teacher.
The common phrase “failure is not an option” does not apply in the slightest to my teaching philosophy. I believe that failure IS an option, and should be embraced rather than feared. Of course we should always strive for our best, but life teaches us that we may not always meet our expectations despite how hard we work. We are all students from the day we are born until the day we die, and there is no such thing as perfection. The best we can hope for is to learn from every one of our failures along the way. How we react to our failures will dictate how we succeed in the future.