Teaching Philosophy Statement
Recent studies have proven that learning to play a musical instrument is vitally important to a child’s intellectual and emotional development. Studying music improves math skills, promotes self-discipline and awareness, strengthens emotional connections, and opens one’s eyes to a vastly diverse world of music and culture. Even adults who begin learning an instrument after the age of 60 show improvements in memory, speech fluency, information processing, and other cognitive functions after only 6 months.
Recognizing that every student has a unique personality and learning style I believe that there is no single method of teaching piano. Piano study must utilize the student’s individual strengths and provide the tools to overcome any weaknesses. I emphasize a strong technical foundation for all my students, believing that correct technique makes the process of learning and creating music easier and more enjoyable. For this same reason theory is incorporated into every lesson, whether through written work or score analysis.
Some of my students are serious musicians, destined for a music degree, but the majority are studying for their own enjoyment or to fulfill some requirement. Students wishing rigorous training follow the Royal Conservatory of Music’s – Music Development Program. This program introduces students to music from the earliest Baroque works through to works by contemporary composers. Repertoire, etudes, technique, and musicianship skills are sequenced from Preparatory through Advanced levels. Students studying for personal interest may choose to follow the MDP curriculum or simply to learn a vast variety of increasingly difficult repertoire. Everyone who follows the MDP program in my studio is encouraged to register for regular professional assessments as a record of achievement.
Methods and Methodology
Because every student is unique method books or other materials are not assigned until after the first lesson when I have had the opportunity to evaluate the student and their learning style and interests. I believe that it is very important to present the student with materials they find engaging and interesting without being so challenging the student quickly loses interest. Students are strongly encouraged to ask questions and to be an active participant in their musical education. Difficult concepts are addressed in multiple ways to facilitate complete understanding of the material. For example, tricky rhythms may be clapped, sung, or danced to in so that the student understands and feels the correct timing of the notes.
Beyond the Printed Page
Creativity and collaboration are fostered through group classes and ensemble playing. I believe even the earliest beginner should be encouraged to compose simple pieces. All students are given opportunities to compose their own music with as much or as little guidance as they desire. This creative process helps students to better understand the music they are reading and playing and fosters a willingness to take chances.
Studio recitals are held twice yearly. Participation is not mandatory but I strongly encourage all students to perform. Those choosing not to participate are still taken through the process of preparing repertoire to be “recital ready” so that they develop the skills and discipline necessary to master a new piece. Memorization is also not mandatory but many students choose to memorize their pieces to showcase their abilities. One recital is held in a local seniors’ residence to share the joy of making music and giving back to our community. The second recital is held in a more formal setting and showcases the students’ progress throughout the year.
What Students Can Expect
I truly enjoy working with students of all ages and aptitudes. Working with such a cross-section of the student population makes me a better teacher because I am constantly researching new material and pedagogical approaches to meet the needs of different types of learners. My goal is for all students to become life-long learners and music lovers. I give students the knowledge they need to be self-motivated to learn new repertoire and play creatively with or without printed music. They gain confidence in public performance as they acquire the discipline, patience, and perseverance necessary for finesse and convincing expression. They also learn to enjoy different styles and genres of music and to appreciate the performances of their classmates and friends.