My Teaching Philosophy
Above all, my goal in teaching children
is to help them develop total musicianship. This means eventually
getting them to the point where they can think for themselves
on their instrument. There is currently a growing number of
enlightened music educators who are realizing the old ways
of teaching music is seriously flawed. When the piano or violin
teacher down the street would place printed music in front
of students year after year, having them regurgitate it back
in endless lessons, kids generally never developed any of
the skills regular folk musicians took for granted. They learned
to read a musical language, but they couldn't speak it. The
problem with this kind of teaching is it doesn't engage the
creative mind or the ear.
In my lessons, students do learn to read, but
it is only part of the musical process. As skills are learned,
we engage the ear more and more. Songs are learned without
written notes. Variations to pieces are learned in an organic
fashion. And part of each lesson is like a two person jam,
as I accompany on guitar and sometimes sing as we play together.
Students are encouraged to learn to sing the songs too. As
skills develop, improvising becomes more and more a part of
One thing I have found through the years is
that kids don't need special dumbed-down children's songs.
I generally avoid the Raffi genre and feed kids the real deal.
I try to help them get to know a little about the artists
whose songs we are learning from, be it Ralph Stanley or Fiddlin'
Sam Long or whomever. Kids can be drawn into music by the
emotional content of music, the same as an adult, if given
the chance. Kids music, of course, is generally stripped of
any of this.
Certainly an important part of learning
to play a stringed instrument is developing technical skills,
using the correct finger, hand and arm movements and postures.
This is something I have paid a lot of attention to and have
thought about the best ways to train these skills. Much of
the lesson program I have developed for each instrument is
focused on building skills in a graduated, orderly fashion.
Properly developing newly acquired
motor skills, and focusing on fluid, efficient movement is a major focus.
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