"Those ideas that we outsiders usually worry about, ideas about beauty and expression, are rarely mentioned by artists. The reason is partly that artists are often shy people who would think it embarrassing to use big words like 'Beauty'. They would feel rather priggish if they were to speak about 'expressing their emotions' and to use similar catchwords. Such things they take for granted and find it useless to discuss. That is one reason, and, it seems, a good one. But there is another. In the actual everyday worries of the artist these ideas play a much smaller part than outsiders would, I think, suspect. What an artist worries about as he plans his pictures, makes his sketches, or wonders whether he has completed his canvas, is something much more difficult to put into words. Perhaps he would say he worries about whether he has got it 'right'. Now it is only when we understand what he means by that modest little word 'right' that we begin to understand what artists are really after." -- E. H. Gombrich
"To do best what everybody does is the aim of a classicist. One does not question aims, one strives to improve one's performance. Practice makes perfect." -- Richard Taruskin
“You can get a diploma from a school of education or from the school of hard knocks (it usually ends up being from a bit of both) but the goals and the paths are up to you.”-- David Miles Huber
The greatest predictor of success is a student’s motivation to practice. Students who sacrifice significant time and energy in the pursuit of musical improvement progress well. Students who do not do this work do not progress. Because students spend considerably more time working by themselves than they do in lessons, I strive to teach in a way that is student-centered and focused on each student’s individual practice. I draw on a student’s own motivations to shape the course of his progress rather than develop him into a musical product through the top-down application of technical information. My goal is to produce students who learn to self-teach and who, through the process of their own improvement, learn to be effective teachers.
I believe students pursue music because they have a powerful, visceral reaction to musical sound. When a student hears a certain performer, or recording, or one of his peers, he is attracted to some aspect of that particular musical model and feels compelled to emulate that aspect in his own playing. I believe this compulsion is what motivates a student to practice. In learning to teach each student, I work to understand which models motivate him and why. I then direct lessons toward the pursuit of emulating those models. My role in this process is that of helping each student translate a model’s “good” sound into its constituent musical and technical elements. It is also to aid the student in incorporating those elements into his own playing.
In guiding students through this process, I expose them to the complex array of musical and technical elements that contribute to a model’s sound. A student’s effort incorporating these elements into his playing advances his understanding of the instrument, and of music more generally. In learning to translate what he hears into what he plays, he engages in a process of self-teaching. This process can be repeated and refined over the course of a lifetime of encountering compelling models. In engaging with a student in this process, I also guide a him toward developing the analytical techniques necessary for becoming an effective teacher.
My motivation to teach in this way stems from a core belief that the study of music is much more about process than outcome. Some students are more advanced, experienced, or talented than others, and two students might produce a similar quality performance despite drastically different levels of preparation. For me, “success” or “failure” on the stage is much less important than a student’s drive to fulfill his own potential. A student who has the will to improve, and who embraces the difficult labor of improvement, will come to a more profound understanding of music than a student who does not. He will also, in most cases, produce a better performance. I work to produce students who embrace the daily work of musical improvement, have the will to further their musical understanding through the sacrifice of time and energy, who are humbled by music, and through its study seek to become free of pretentiousness and ego.