Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reading to Enrich Your Teaching - The Practice Revolution

When I first started teaching I mostly did things in the way my own teachers had taught me, consciously and unconsciously. Within a year it seemed as though all of my students had somehow inherited my own practice flaws, plus a few of their own. I'm not sure that there is anything more irritating than seeing your own flaws reflected in your students. After some serious self-reflection, I realized that I was responsible for teaching them these flaws, as my own teachers had taught them to me. This isn't to say that I was responsible for every error my students made; they are certainly capable (creative?) enough of making their own mistakes, as I was at their age and in college. We simply learn to do things the way our teachers do them, good and bad.

In an effort to have a more thought-out, tailored approach for each student, I decided to research practice techniques. I found a lot of books on motivation of the artist, and lots of books that made you feel good about the idea of practicing, but very few books about the diagnosis of practice problems and practical techniques for overcoming them. The first (and I think the best!) book that I found along these lines was The Practice Revolution by Philip Johnston.

Philip Johnston has to be one of the most enlightened teachers of music on the planet. This book helped me to be objective about my own practice flaws and get past them. By doing this, it opened me up in new ways to help guide my students through their flaws into success. In the third chapter, Johnston discusses common practice problems; he defines the flaw, teaches you how to see if the student is practicing that way, and gives you tips to help correct the flaw. He discusses why students don't practice, and gives effective ways to learn new music, speed pieces up, get the hard parts under control, memorize and ideas on how to help students make a piece their own. Johnston also gets specific about the use of the lesson notebook and the role that parents can play.

When I read this book, I knew many of the techniques that Johnston discusses, but many of them were fresh ideas for me, and one of them has literally revolutionized the way I teach music (that is a whole other post!). If you are looking for ways to make yourself more effective as both a teacher and a musician, this book is absolutely one of the best places to start. I'd like to say that I recommend this book to music teachers everywhere, but the truth is I honestly believe every musician should read it, teacher or otherwise.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Recently I've realized that one of my favorite ways to get information about new products and ideas is to read a blog on the subject. It's such an easy way to find an expert opinion on whatever it is that you are interested in. I realized that there are several music blogs that I love reading, but that there are very few that deal with teaching private lessons and even fewer that deal with the oboe.  What to do when you can't find what you are looking for on the internet? Write it yourself!

I'm a fairly young teacher; I only started about three years ago!  I have a degree in Oboe Performance from East Carolina University, where I studied with Bo Newsome. My mom and my husband are both band directors, so I have some pretty incredible resources when I have questions, but even still sometimes there are questions where I have to find my own way. I really want this blog to be a resource for new private teachers so that when you get out of school it isn't quite so daunting to begin your own studio. I want to share the things that I do that are successful, and let you know when I try something that completely bombs. Teaching is definitely a learning experience, and I want to share what I learn.

I also want this to be a place where young musicians can find new ideas about practicing, performance anxiety, auditioning, and the many challenges that learning an instrument can bring. I also want it to be a place where young oboists who may or may not have access to a teacher can find help with the particular trials of learning how to play their instrument.

Since I've been teaching privately I've seen a really wide range of parental knowledge on the study of music. Some parents know next to nothing, and others have a vast store of knowledge, but I haven't met one yet that wasn't interested in what their child was doing. A lot of the time parents wish to be involved but have no idea how to become part of their child's music education. I want to help bring parents to the table in the music lesson, so that teacher, student and parents can have the most beneficial relationship possible

I can't wait to really get started with this project. You'll see regular posts from me as well as guest posts from my students, their parents and my colleagues. I want this to have the feel of an open forum, so please feel free to let me know if there are any issues or questions you want me to discuss. See you soon!
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