As teachers we are always learning and growing. We have learned from our own teachers, our colleagues, and most importantly– our students. I finally decided to sit down and write my teaching philosophy. This will be an evolving philosophy as I continue to learn myself, but it was inspired by some truly great teachers and mentors that I have been fortunate enough to have in my life.
Teach the Whole Person
Though I consider myself a teacher of trombone, the foundation of my teaching philosophy is that I teach the whole person, not just the instrument. Students are all unique individuals with many interests and talents. I respect my students’ diverse qualities and will tailor my teaching to their interests and goals—both musical and personal.
With that in mind, I want to help my students formulate a series of goals each semester—long term and short term. Together, we will decide what they need to do in order to achieve their goals. From week to week, I will check on their progress and provide encouragement. I want to be a mentor to my students, and I will do everything I can to make sure that they are equipped to accomplish any goal that they make for themselves.
Students as Developing Creative Artists
I consider each of my students as developing creative artists. As artists, we all strive to express ourselves. Musical expression requires passion, intent, and thoughtfulness from the performer, and it should be the driving force behind each note that we play. Expressionless playing by mindless technicians is not music, and I want my students to make music each time they put their instrument to their lips. Musical expression is somewhat of a bearing of one’s soul, and I want to create an environment where my students feel safe and know that what they express has value. Musical expression is the foundation in which all other aspects of playing are built upon, and an active musical imagination will allow one’s musicianship to shine.
Beautiful Sound & Listening
Playing with a beautiful sound comes naturally to some players, and others have to work harder. Regardless, I want my students to always strive to produce the best sound that they can. This involves having an idea about what one wants to sound like—listening is key. I encourage my students to be avid listeners of music. I want them to learn how to describe what they like or don’t like about a certain performer. Critical listening and discussion will help develop one’s concept of sound. I also want to encourage my students to listen to all great instrumentalists and singers—not just trombonists. There is a lot that trombonists can learn from other disciplines.
Technique & Creative Problem Solving
All musicians must take the time to develop technique. That said, I think that separating technique from music making is a trap that must be avoided. Students must understand that a solid technique (articulations, slide dexterity, intonation, breathing, etc.) always revolves around musicianship. I will encourage my students to be mindful and thoughtful when working on technique because problems and bad habits almost always arise when one mindlessly practices as a technician. Mindfulness first begins with a slow, methodical approach. This can sometimes seem boring to young musicians, but if done thoughtfully with musical intent, what first seemed boring becomes an opportunity to make a beautiful sound and musical phrase. Practicing with a metronome is a good habit to have when working on “technical” exercises. There are countless ways of approaching different technical aspects of playing the trombone. I will always encourage my students to try multiple approaches when solving a technical problem. Creativity is also a useful problem solving skill. All students and players are different, and a single solution will most likely not solve every student’s problem or bad habit. I want my student s to play an active role in pinpointing bad habits or deficiencies. After locating a bad habit, it is important to replace it with a good habit. Together, we will discuss different ways to work on the replacement habit and encourage repetition of good habits. It is my goal to encourage sound pedagogical problem solving skills in my students. Addressing problems and deficiencies is an opportunity for my students to become better musicians and better teachers themselves.
Technology: Recorder, Metronome, Tuner
Recording oneself is an invaluable exercise. I will record all of my students’ lessons and expect them to listen and take notes after reviewing their recordings. In doing so, they can practice listening objectively to their playing and will most likely hear things that they weren’t aware of in their playing. Sometimes it is easy to become overly critical of one’s own playing, so I will be sure, as the teacher, to draw the student’s attention to the positive aspects of their playing first, followed with thoughtful critique. However, if a student becomes overly cocky or arrogant, I will be sure to place him or her in situations that are more challenging and require humility. No matter how proficient we get at our instrument, there is always room to grow.
Art of Performance
While it is my job to teach my students how to practice, it is also my job to teach them how to perform. The art of performance is a skill like any other that must be refined by repetition. I will encourage my students to perform every chance they get. I will incorporate multiple performances for each student throughout the semester in trombone seminar, which will culminate into either a jury or recital performance. I want to create a welcoming environment in my trombone seminars and encourage all of the students to contribute thoughtful criticism or praise after their colleagues’ performances. This will benefit both the listeners and performers. There is always something to be learned from performing.
In conclusion, my teaching philosophy centers on teaching the whole person. This requires that I must develop a unique approach for each student. I want to create a safe and positive environment that allows them to develop as expressive artists. I will always welcome questions and encourage my students to become creative problem solvers. Through a mutual respect and leading by example, I hope to inspire my students to become the best musicians and people that they can be.