The process of honing my teaching practices continues to be one of the most meaningful undertakings of my life. During my teaching years, I have gained broad pedagogical knowledge from my in-depth studies of piano pedagogy and from working with many different types of students whom I have geared toward various learning outcomes based upon their unique needs and desires. These experiences have helped illuminate the guiding principles of my own teaching philosophy.
Intentional Artistry: Developing artistry is important as it gives students the confidence to have a unique voice in a musical world that can seem very large at times. I direct students to use their artistry intentionally, whether that be through championing works by traditionally underrepresented composers, curating programs that engage specific audiences, or finding other ways to further their individual values through music. Since I believe that great artistry is often best developed through observation, I help connect students to recordings and videos of diverse artists from whom they might draw inspiration.
One of the most important ways I teach my students to be intentional about their music is by maximizing their impact on their communities. As a teacher, I encourage creative thinking from students by helping them develop their projects and ideas at various stages. From grant writing to research and from my private studio to developing the entrepreneurial The 5pm Series, I have experience and encouragement to share. Not only is this type of work fulfilling, but also it can lead to long-term involvement in music for ourselves and our communities.
Wellness: There are many different types of wellness that affect our musical endeavors: emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, and social, to name a few. Disparities in any of these areas can hold students back in their studies. I offer my students support, transparency, and trust, so that they feel safe to speak with me about their lives beyond music.
Physical wellness is an important aspect of instrumental study, and central to this is the careful teaching of technique that avoids injury and pain. I define technique as the ability to play the instrument with ease, producing the widest possible variety of sounds, dynamics, textures, and colors. By developing a strong technical foundation, my students are more easily able to achieve musical artistry by embedding music with their own creativity and passion. When I work with students, no matter what level they are at, I watch for any unnatural movements such as twisting and stretching and rework passages to prevent injury; together we slowly figure out the motions and fingerings that work for their hands.
Theory and History - Knowledge and Application: Music theory and history work together to inform the black and white notes on the pages of music. When students have a strong theoretical knowledge, it quickly shows in their ability to learn music independently and to play it artistically. Music theory itself acts as one of the most important interpretive tools a student can have. Students can use their understanding of phrase structure, harmony, melodic contour, voicing, meter, form, and so on, to enliven their dynamics, phrasing, and rubato—many of the most important aspects of artistry.
Another important aspect of my teaching is helping students learn about the pieces they study in the larger context of music history. With this knowledge, students approach their music with a heightened awareness of style and other characteristics. Further, by probing the history of western classical music, I engage students in thoughtful discussions about the music that is often programmed and viewed as art--and further, what is too often left out. I aim to teach repertoire that is not typically part of the western canon, particularly pieces by composers of underrepresented identities. I often ask my students questions surrounding music history and theory, not only to assess gaps, but also to engage them in the process of music making and exploration. My hope is to give them a sense of ownership in that art.
Collaboration and Community: Fostering a strong sense of community both in and outside of the classroom is an essential aspect of student growth, and makes studying music more enjoyable. When creating lesson plans, I ensure that each class has at least one collaborative element to help build community in the classroom. I also encourage students to participate in ensembles, as this can be a wonderful way to learn from other musicians and engage in meaningful music making.
With the great sense of responsibility I feel to guide my students in their musical journeys comes an accompanying gratitude for the many teachers who have positively impacted my own growth as a musician and person throughout my life. By offering my students the knowledge and tools to guide their explorations of music, I hope to help them become future artistic leaders in their communities.