Ultimately, the student is at the center of the lesson. My role as a music teacher is to use the knowledge and experiences I have accumulated to guide them in their own musical discoveries through engaging and supportive instruction.
My responsibility as a music teacher is to help students develop a strong foundation to enhance their music-making for the rest of their lives. While this includes an emphasis on fundamental performance techniques, developed through a curriculum of exercises, etudes, and repertoire, it is also important to focus on developing the student’s critical thinking skills. To this end, I encourage students to actively think and contribute discussion in the lesson.
Through my experiences as a faculty member, graduate teaching assistant, student teacher, and freelance private instructor, I have learned the value of allowing the student to contribute in the music-making process, instead of always telling them what to do and asking them to replicate what I say or demonstrate. My lessons are usually full of questions to guide the students to evaluate their own performance and think about what they can do musically. This encourages students to utilize their own musical instincts, and prepares them to become their own teacher after their lessons have concluded. Furthermore, it fosters more engagement and enthusiasm in the lesson, as the final product the students create feels more like their own personal work, rather than simply the result of following directions.
In order for students to be able to fully engage in the music-making process, I believe it is necessary for the learning environment, be that a classroom or private lesson, to be supportive and encouraging. So much of what we do as musicians is tied to our emotions and life experiences that offering our ideas on music and the messages we try to convey with it leave us in an emotionally vulnerable position. For students to be comfortable with this vulnerability, I try my best to verbalize my feedback in a way that always challenges them to push their music-making to the next level, but in a way that acknowledges and respects the input they contribute.
Creating this environment of support in the studio also sometimes requires being an advocate and mentor for students beyond their musical needs, to make sure that all feel welcomed, respected, and valued. I always make it a priority in my first few lessons with a student to get to know them as more than a clarinetist, and make it clear that I am there to provide support as they navigate through the challenge and stress of academic life. Through developing this rapport, students generally seem much more willing to be vulnerable and actively contribute to the music-making in the lesson.