Children are innately musical and have an inborn ability to sing and move rhythmically. A great educator fosters and nurtures that ability. Music makes a significant difference in our lives because it communicates meaning through expression of one’s self, fostering the ability to think with acuity, to create with imagination, and to feel with compassion. In my teaching, I strive to build a loving, supportive, and enthusiastic learning environment while maintaining high expectations and setting attainable goals in which students will succeed. I believe in teaching mastery of skills, reinforcing proper technique and musicianship from the very first piano lesson. Very thorough in my approach, I provide an individualized, yet comprehensive approach for each student, including instruction in music theory and history, technique, sight-reading, ear training, composition, and performance.
The educational psychologists and educators of the past century emphasized that there is not a “one size fits all” mold for teaching and learning. Therefore, my teaching is exceptionally student-led in that my approach, strategies, and selection of repertoire are dictated by each individual student’s needs and learning styles. In individual lessons and within small groups, I tailor the content according to each student’s needs, prior learning experiences and ways of thinking. I incorporate a mixture of learning styles to accommodate all types of learners: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and analytical.
I have been greatly influenced by developmental psychologists such as Vygotsky and Piaget. According to the former’s social constructivist theory, students achieve a higher level of cognitive development and learning is maximized through collaborating with peers. Consequently, I use frequent ensemble playing, as duets or chamber music, to further develop students’ listening and rhythmic skills and to build social community. Through group classes, master classes, and recitals, I strive to foster a sense of community and self-confidence.
I am also keenly aware of the importance of teaching the appropriate concepts at the appropriate time and age, depending on each individual student. In this, I am an advocate of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development including his stages of learning development. Older students learn through more abstract concepts and hypothetical situations, such as the nuances and deductive meanings behind a Chopin Ballade. There is no benefit, however, in teaching younger children as if they are “little adults,” basically in away in which they are not ready yet to fully comprehend. An experienced and insightful educator knows and recognizes when a students is ready for which stage. For example, using games, imagination, and fantasy are a much more beneficial and effective way of teaching children in the earlier stages of learning development.
Educator and violinist, Shinichi Suzuki advocated “a total human education” and emphasized that a student’s character must be developed first and foremost. To that endeavor, I am completely dedicated. Music not only teaches self-discipline, perseverance when faced with challenges, and habituates effective learning patterns, but it can also create a great awareness of oneself and a connection with others. Because music embodies our feelings and emotions, students experience empathy, compassion, value and awareness of things greater than themselves, and as a result achieve a higher level of thinking. It is from this basis of thinking, I believe a musician can and will bloom into something greater than that which can be expressed through words.