As the 2017 school year opened, and I welcomed a swarm of new students into my studio, I took some time to reflect on my teaching values that have built the studio that I have today. It was refreshing to remind myself and my students in our reflections why we do what we do each time we have a lesson together…
Here are my reflections on my music pedagogy values:
I believe that music is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. It’s a gift that we can carry with us our entire lives. Along the way, the gift of music can communicate and express things that words can’t even touch – in every imaginable scenario and season.
My goal as a teacher is to help each of my students experience the gift of music to the fullest.
I’ve played the piano as long as I can remember. From my early music lessons with my grandpa, to studying classical piano performance with a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, I’m so grateful for the gift of music that was placed in my life.
Growing up, I never viewed myself as a teacher, nor did I have the desire to teach. I wanted to be a concert pianist, and I worked passionately towards that goal as a teenager. I practiced relentlessly. I was 20 years old when I completed my bachelor’s degree in music, and at that point, I had plans to continue a career in solo and collaborative piano performance.
After finishing as a finalist in a national competition, I was forced to put that dream aside, due to an injury I experienced, and I took up teaching. Never once have I regretted that life change. Teaching my students and helping them be successful has become one of the greatest joys of my life.
I love everything about the piano – the classical repertoire, the fascinating mechanical action of wooden hammers on steel strings. I love the whole-body experience of tackling upper-level classical pieces. I love the emotional and mental release of improvising on the keys, and creating my own sound.
I love that when your hands connect with the ivory keys, something happens inside of you – you’re experiencing the gift of music in an enchanting way. And you’re not the same person after that.
When you play the piano, you become one with the instrument. It’s an experience, and not really something that I can describe in words.
For me, that experience begins with learning the language of music – and from symbols to sound, it’s captivating. Hence, in my studio, I don’t just want my students to build solid technique, and have a well-rounded repertoire, although I do work towards those goals every day.
The dream at the heart of everything I do in my studio is to inspire my students to be fluent in the language of music.
Not just fluent in reading music and playing it – but loving it so much that they have the desire and the capacity to create their own as well. After all, what would we think of an English teacher who only taught her students to read?
If students are going to be inspired, they have to be able to express themselves. They will care about what they create and own.
Thus, in my studio, we don’t just play music – we improvise, we create, we invent – our own songs, our own compositions, our own sounds in our own styles and along the way, we discover the true beauty of the language of music, and learn that it’s relevant for everyone, wherever they are at.
And yes, learning and growing and developing skill is wonderful. However, to me, the most beautiful and motivating aspect of teaching my students is the opportunity I have to build relationship with them and invest in them as individuals.
I love every one of my students – I love their smiles, their creativity, I love being next to them on their good days, and their hard days. I love sifting through their assignments, diagnosing the problems, and figuring out how I am going to help them be successful. But most of all, as I guide them through the learning processes, I’m always filled with a sense of wonder, that I get to be a part of this amazing journey with them.
I believe that every one of my students is brilliant, and that they can learn and achieve anything, as long as they are taught well.
So at the end of the day, I want to know that I invested all of myself in every student that came through the door.
And when they leave my studio, I want them to be equipped, empowered, and inspired to achieve their musical dreams.
I have seen that music can take individuals on the most incredible journeys of their lifetimes. It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to join my piano students on that journey every day.
In everything I do in my studio, my heartcry echoes the Psalmist’s prayer: