When I asked my parents for guitar lessons for my seventh birthday in hopes of becoming the next Patsy Cline, I did not know that those first music lessons would be the beginning of a wonderful journey of a life with music. Though I never made it to the Grand Ole Opry and eventually swapped my guitar for a flute, music has been one of my life’s greatest joys and has taught me many vital skills such as self-discipline, self-expression, focused work ethic, goal oriented planning, dedication, communication, and critical thinking skills. I have been fortunate to have many inspiring, caring, knowledgeable music teachers in my life and I consider it not only my passion, but also my responsibility to pass on to my students what I so gratefully learned from my teachers.
Every student is a unique individual, with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, goals and ambitions, personality and learning styles. What I believe each student does have in common is the ability to learn and improve his or her musical skills and to accomplish anything with dedication and encouragement. It is my job as a teacher to tailor my teaching to fit each student’s personal needs so that he or she can reach their full potential. I strive to always show students that I care about them and their individual development by treating them with respect, having high expectations, showing support and encouragement, and always being as prepared for their lessons as I expect them to be.
My approach to teaching is one of positivity and encouragement in order to promote the development of critical thinking skills. Teachers must not forget to praise students for things they do well, even if they are enthusiastic about improving weak areas of a student’s playing. I always invite students to critique their own work by asking questions instead of simply giving answers and directions. It is important that students learn to diagnose and solve their own problems – after all, the teacher is generally only present to guide the student for one hour per week. I encourage students to have an open mind and to be receptive to change. Learning a musical instrument is a long journey and great students should always be striving to change and improve. Most importantly, I urge students to be willing to make “mistakes”. Making mistakes – being curious, exploring, experimenting – is how we learn and should not be discouraged. This curiosity is as important in life as it is in music.
As a flute teacher, I believe in methodical, logical work with an emphasis on developing a solid fundamental technique that can then be applied to the performance and interpretation of the music. A solid fundamental flute technique includes breath support and control, sound production, technical facility, articulation, and vibrato production. These techniques should be learned through exercises and etudes assigned to each student as needed, which can then be applied to other solo, chamber, and orchestral repertoire. I do not stress the development of fundamental techniques in order to have students than can play the loudest or the fastest, but to equip my students with the tools they need to play expressively, with beautiful phrases, and with integrity to the music.
It is crucial to ensure that students develop healthy playing habits from the start, including healthy use and understanding of how the body works in relation to flute playing. My own studies and successes with the Alexander Technique have shown me how proper use of the body can positively affect one’s development.
In addition to teaching the fundamentals of flute playing, I believe it is important for students to become informed, well-rounded musicians. An understanding of basic music theory and music history helps students to better understand the music and to improve their own performance.
I take my job as a music teacher very seriously. I strongly believe that learning a musical instrument is one of the most beneficial things that a person (young and old) can do for themselves and it is my job to guide them on their journey. Whether a student is just beginning, preparing to enter a career in music, or simply learning to play the flute for the joy music can bring to every day life, I strive to make sure that each student is having fun and enjoying the journey while gaining the skills that will help him or her to evolve as a flutist, musician, and person.