TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
I believe the single most important aspect of teaching is the one-on-one connection between student and teacher. I want my students to feel, regardless of which field they enter, that they are musically, academically, and professionally prepared, and feel confident that our work together has helped them reach their full potential. The foundation in my teaching comes from three basic approaches: first, understanding the artistry in music; second, mastering the fundamentals of the instrument through proven methodology and processes; and finally, assessing student success to attain larger goals musically and to ensure that they are professionally competitive in the ever-changing world of the arts.
The first, and most important task of teaching is artistry. Music is a living, breathing organism that changes and evolves over time, and is shaped by our own personal experiences. We, as musical artists, are given the task of weaving a story of the composer’s intentions with that of our own to create a truly unique interpretation.
Whether virtuosic or lyrical, my emphasis has always been on tonal beauty and expression as the foundation to all playing. There are two great inspirations that inform my approach to sound:
1. Fundamental skill. Every artist, visual or otherwise utilizes a set of fundamental techniques that when manipulated and combined produce the unique result we recognize as an interpretation. Legendary Eastman Flute Professor Joseph Mariano spoke of the fundamentals of sound as a three-legged stool held up by dynamics, vibrato, and focus. The mastery and artful execution of these three simple concepts give the flutist the malleability to make musical decisions with ease and finesse.
2. The Flutist as singer. It is my strong belief that a beautiful sound cannot exist to its full potential when there is tension in the body. Much like a singer, the way we hold our bodies, the way we breathe, and the way in which we support our air, have a greater impact on our sound than the flute itself. The body is the source through which our sound is produced, and the flute is a mere vehicle. We are challenged to work with the body rather than against it. A relaxed and balanced posture contributes greatly to the release of tension and allows the body to be open and play more freely.
The great singers raise the bar for us as musicians in every way. I highly encourage my students to listen to, and collaborate with, singers, and I also suggest practicing vocal repertoire in transcriptions and in books, like Marcel Moyse’s Tone Development through Interpretation.
Students should take great pride in being exceptional players, whether their focus lies in performance, education, or academia, or elsewhere. One of the great challenges and joys I have in teaching is to determine the most effective way to reach each student. This individualized approach contributes to the structure all of my lessons.
1. Conceptual - requiring frequent musical demonstrations and an emphasis on creativity including imaginative discussions about musical phrasing, colors in sound, and artistry.
2. Intellectual - the understanding of music in concrete terms, with a strong emphasis on history and theory, including rhythm, harmonies, and musical structures.
3. Fundamental - including exercises in tonal control and expression, scales, arpeggios, and technical etudes/articulation studies.
There is no question that time in the practice room contributes to success on stage. However, incorrect or misguided pacing may lead to fatigue and/or injury. I advocate a balanced approach to practicing which includes setting daily goals, weekly goals, and goals for the long term. Once these goals are established, the student can develop a smart practice plan which will prepare them for the desire outcomes. Careful attention to long- and short-term goals also helps the performer to learn repertoire more completely while managing nerves and avoiding panic on stage.
Another facet of my balanced approach to practicing includes work in the academic classroom, as well as careful study of scores and recordings. Academic work such as theory, aural skills, and music history gives students the ability to understand music within a much broader context culturally, historically, and analytically as well as artistically. A strong academic background also gives students greater flexibility should they choose to pursue a career outside of performing.
Taking into consideration the students’ goals and aspirations, and leaving room for creative liberties, I strongly believe that there is a core set of pieces, etudes, and exercises that each student should be aware of and play. Additionally, juries and recitals help students to assess whether they are reaching certain standards in their playing. I also believe that it is imperative that students pursue competitions, professional opportunities, and summer festivals off campus to help them understand the competitive market they are entering.
My Purpose in Teaching
It is an honor and privilege to work alongside students during such a critical phase of their development as an artist. The self-discovery and discipline required of being a musician makes music such a vital and personal part of our lives. For some, the love of music will lead to a desire to perform professionally. For others, it will lead them to study the academic or educational side of music. For others still, music will become a comfort that they return to as they pursue careers in different fields. Regardless, my purpose in teaching is to help my students discover their own unique talents and gifts, and teach them to use these gifts to enrich their lives and the lives of others. The love of music is a lifelong pursuit, and one that should always be enjoyed.