I started teaching private music lessons when I was in high school, so I’ve been doing it for about four years now. This by no means makes me an expert (or anything resembling an expert), but I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few things about teaching since I started.
As an undergraduate music ed major, I approach teaching probably a little different than some other people. I teach my students facility on their instrument, but I believe it is just as important (if not more important) that they develop overall independent musicianship. In other words, I try to teach my students to be good, independent musicians by using/playing their particular instrument. I choose this approach for a few reasons. Most importantly, I believe that it is my duty as a music educator to create good musical citizens. It is critical that people are able to listen to music, evaluate and analyze music, sing melodies in tune, and keep a beat in their bodies. These skills transcend the playing of any particular instrument, and having them makes for a more fulfilling life.
I try to teach independent musicianship to my private students so that they can carry their musical knowledge into the rest of their musical lives. When I was in fourth grade, my first instrument was the clarinet. I played it in school for five years. I am now in my third year as a tuba major in music school. If I had only learned the technical aspects of pushing the correct buttons on the clarinet, and nothing else, I would have been out of luck when the time came to learn the tuba. Instead, because I knew scales, reading, theory, how to sing in tune, and how to audiate, I had a much easier time transferring my musical knowledge in a relevant and applicable way.
Another reason I try to ‘make good musical citizens’ out of my students is very related to the previous reasons. Basically, I want my students to be able to appreciate and enjoy music to the best of their ability. Too often do we see people experiencing truly beautiful musical moments, but they find those moments incredibly boring or unlistenable because they have not been taught how to appreciate them. That does not mean I try to brainwash all of my students to enjoy classical music; I don’t. Instead, I try to work with the student to help them ‘open their ears’, and learn how to listen to more than just the surface of whatever particular piece of music they are listening to. I don’t care if it’s Mozart, Duke Ellington, or Lady Gaga, I want my students to be able to experience, appreciate, and enjoy the music that they play and listen to.
When you get right down to it, I think that is what it is all about, that is why we do what we do: to teach students how to have a genuine and enjoyable musical experience by using their independent musicianship. This is what I try to accomplish with my students.