TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

To sit in an orchestral flute section, in the center of a great orchestra, in the center of its sound, is an awe-inspiring experience; one that comes with an awesome responsibility.  The intimate communication and collaboration of chamber music can replenish the soul, all the while as flutists we often find ourselves with the additional responsibility of leading the ensemble.  The thrill of solo recitals builds an unparalleled sense of confidence and independence, and yet comes with the task of resigning the ego to conveying the most profound musical ideas of another.  Communication of an abstract idea, a concrete image, a story, or an emotional expression through music is a tremendous experience.  Music lessons provide numerous, valuable, and dynamic opportunities for teacher-student interactions.  Beyond my primary foci as a steward of music--flute instruction, musicianship, and musical knowledge--it is the extra-musical lessons which present themselves readily during lessons, rehearsals, and performances that prove to be invaluable life lessons. Lessons such as: the sustained effort required to reach long-term goals, the ability to honestly self-assess, confidence of emotional expression, emotional control, leadership, collaboration, creativity, self-reliance, dependability, and finally independence. Learning to play music, mastering an instrument is a life lesson.  

The American style of flute playing was founded by French flutist Georges Barrere, whose primary lesson was to lead by example--a lesson, a covenant still held as the highest standard by the National Flute Association and myself today.  One of the most important roles of a professor of flute is to uphold and maintain the highest levels and standards of performance and professionalism not only as an instructor or faculty member, but also as a musician, a steward for the Art.  Barrere exemplified to flutists, and the musical community-at-large, that actions spoke louder than words through his brilliant performances, collaborations, and consummate advocation for new music.  I believe that leading through a positive, pro-active example reinforces tutelage shared in lessons, rehearsals, seminars, innovative collaborations, performances, and in interactive collegial debate.  Music students are responsible for learning not only instrumental technique and the craft of music, but also for deciphering how to communicate and interact with colleagues in a responsible, professional manner.  As a role model, it is important to convey that achievement comes from dedicated, consistent hard work, and that students are ultimately responsible for their successes and failures through the accomplishment of assignments designed to assist them in achieving their short- and long-term goals.  

To define music is a nearly impossible task.  It is sound and the absence of sound, whose combinations elicit a response--negative, positive, neutral--from a listener.  As musical artists, we hope to guide those sounds and pauses to communicate both concrete and abstract ideas, textures, and emotions.  As a professor of flute, it is essential to draw upon all aspects of life to transfer knowledge to students to achieve this communication.  Whether it is the physics and mathematics of the instrument and acoustics, music’s relation to literature, the Fine Arts, philosophy, and psychology, relating music to everyday life or to other academic disciplines is essential not only to the music reaching it’s full effect, but also to a student reaching their full potential.  Students must draw upon musicology and music theory to understand a composition as a whole, to understand how their singular part fits into a larger musical framework. So many elements congeal to create a great, memorable performance.  Yet, some of the most important fundamentals are too often overlooked in favor of pyrotechnic displays, such as rapid-fire playing, overuse of extended technique, and bouncing between registral extremes.  Achieving the highest level of mastery of the instrument, including proficiency in scales, etudes, solo and ensemble literature, is not enough to create an employable, viable musician. A professor must provide and foster a foundation of the fundamentals of music--highly-developed senses of intonation, rhythm, tone production, interpretation, and flexibility--in every student.  It is through this type of nurturing that a professor can cultivate a well-rounded musician in each student.   

It is upon these fundamentals of performance that a musician may learn to develop artistically.  It is the responsibility of the instructor to guide a student to balance technique, fundamentals, and artistic interpretation as they develop a sense of phrasing and interpretation of various musical styles.  The combination of all of these elements permit a student to develop an awareness of their role in various musical settings, bringing with them the perspicacity and acumen necessary for success in an all too often abstract Art form.

Every student is unique, with an individual learning style, whether it is oral, aural, visual, etc.  Therefore, it is my goal to tailor instruction to each student, individually, and provide them with the tools necessary for them to discover how to teach themselves, to be independent musicians.   Part of that independence is understanding how we each react to high-pressure situations, such as auditions or performances.  It is the instructor’s job to provide students with the necessary knowledge to successfully move their performance from the safety of the studio to the stage.  When a student becomes aware and discovers how all of the above elements combine to create a great, memorable performance, s(he) has achieved the first steps to independent thinking and self-guidance, thus her/himself becoming a steward of music.