I believe the job of any teacher is not only to impart knowledge, but also to equip the students with the ability to advance their own learning beyond the classroom. I face two very different audiences in my teaching. My horn students are music lovers who need to see “behind the veil” and learn how music is made. In Music Appreciation class, most of my students are completely new to the world of art music, and need to be convinced that the subject matter is alive and relevant to their lives.
In the Horn Studio, my primary objective is to make myself obsolete. I strive to give my students the tools they need to identify and overcome obstacles to their growth. Since most of my students are future educators, I place great emphasis on provoking them to become better musicians; the horn just happens to be our preferred medium of expression. I say “provoke” because the student must be engaged and involved. Even though I may tell them how to do something—physically or musically—they must ultimately discover the concepts for themselves and take ownership of the technique.
Helping each student reach their full potential requires me to tailor my instruction to their individual abilities, personality, and learning methods. I must deliver the material in a way that they can easily understand and assimilate. And, I must find the right balance of encouragement and exhortation that is most effective for each student.
In teaching Music Appreciation, I display an infectious enthusiasm for the music we study. I see as an important part of my job the cultivation of the next generation of consumers of music. To paraphrase Benjamin Zander, I believe all of my students love classical music, they just don’t know it yet! I show them the relevance of this music to modern life by relating my own experiences as a performer, and by drawing examples from the current news and pop culture. I encourage them to allow the music to impact them emotionally, and I try to give them an emotional blueprint of a work based on the context of its composition, or having them relate it to their own experiences.
In both the Horn Studio and the classroom, I have high expectations of my students, and I maintain rigorous standards that require the students to be active participants in their own learning. Babying them might be easier for us all now, but it would be crippling them in the long run. At the same time, I sincerely want all of them to succeed, and I do my best to help them achieve their goals.