As a university instructor, I have the opportunity to interact with a wide array of students who come from diverse musical backgrounds. Despite having different interests, they all share the same desire to pursue an education in music and to experience it in a wide variety of contexts and settings. Because of this, I continually seek to develop new ways to communicate and engage with my students so that I am better able to help them learn. I do this by seeking to understand the background from which each student comes, what their world view is, and what their overall life and career goals are.
As an applied viola teacher, I believe that every student has a unique musical personality and their own approach to playing music. Owing to this, each student must be approached as an individual and in a way that does not suppress their unique personal characteristics. While developing a student’s technique, I think that a teacher must be careful not to force upon them a rigid and immovable learning system that runs counter to their previous musical development and personality traits. Even while using the same instructional material across an entire studio, a flexible and imaginative teacher can take into consideration a variety of different learning styles and formulate new methods that are appropriate to each student in their care. Inflexibility in the teaching method and the assumption that there is only one proper way of improving musicianship can often times be harmful to the student’s self esteem and interfere with their course of study. It is the responsibility of the teacher to find the right pedagogical and technical material to help the student expand upon and develop their talents, while at the same time not interfering with or dampening their love for music.
I believe that in addition to playing the standard repertoire, the most effective way to improve a student’s skill is through the study of a wide variety of scales, etudes and technical exercises. Through progressive study of these materials, each student discovers how their hands work and what the best way for them to execute technical challenges is. Additionally, I encourage my students to listen to and become familiar with as much repertoire as possible. A greater familiarity with the repertoire of our instrument will naturally lead towards the student being able to choose pieces to work on by themselves instead of being assigned them. By doing this, students become more engaged in their work, pursue it with increased commitment, and enjoy it more. Throughout the process of learning, it is essential to help students retain and express their musical personality, all the while keeping them on a path toward what is considered to be fine playing.