Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy—Intensity and Patience working together to Find the Music

It's all about listening. The teacher listens to the student, the student listens to himself, the ensemble listens as broadly as possible.

Teaching takes time. There need to be more and less intense moments, a good dollop of humor, irrelevant details alongside the central focus, repetition with imaginative variety. One must find the helpful comment, the important detail to work on 'now' to vary the pressure, to make it easier for the student to learn. Communication happens through words, stories, metaphors, gestures, touches, energy.

For ensemble players, it is genuinely hard to think about your own playing while listening to others, and it can be close to impossible to listen to others when you are worried about your own playing. What to do. Separate the functions. Chant a rhythm in nonsense syllables or clap it, walk around the room stepping on the off-beats, sing a note with others to try to tune your voices, play just the high notes, or just the low, play copy-cat with a theme, have the accompaniment part accompany chanting, ignore the bar lines, practice chords at many different dynamics, exaggerate a staccato passage, and last but not least, play softer. And then, in fact, it's also about looking! You must catch your colleagues' eyes, their arm gestures, their breath.

The quality in the air between teacher and students is real and tangible: desire to learn, to share, to find deeper meaning, a search for mastery and self control in the best sense.

Sept. 2010