With risk of being cliché, I very much value the approach of teaching music as a language and I encourage my students to approach learning music as they would a language. For any language, two words that are significant to consider as an effective method of communication are fluency in the language and structure of the language. To communicate an idea, we must know enough words to communicate our idea and, in order to successfully communicate that idea, we must be able to structure those words into a recognizable format of the language. Through both fluency and structure, we are learning a universal language through music.
Fluency – to build a thorough understanding of terminologies and visual recognition of musical concepts. Fluency in music theory starts with notation but also encompasses quick recognition of triads, intervals, and scales. Quick recognition of words and terminologies are also important and essential to building the fluency of music. Words and terminologies such as those that exist on a score allow for quick analysis and recognition of music allowing for a faster interpretation and more advanced analysis.
I aim to develop a curriculum that incorporates speedy recognition and identification of concepts, terminologies, and notations. Just as muscle memory is essential to develop instrumental skills, muscle memory is essential to developing language skills.
Structure – In this context, structure is in reference to how a language is put together to create communication. Communication is an odd term to use when in reference to teaching the technical components of music but it also captures the most fundamental concepts to the most advanced. In communication we need sentence structure, inflection, content in that sentence, paragraphs that form longer thoughts, punctuation, and grammar. As a performer, communication is a vital aspect to analyze in our performance. How are we phrasing? Breathing? What is our dynamic inflection? Rhythm and tempo? All of the performer-based questions above are easily translatable to what a student hears or sees in a score.
The approach of teaching music as a universal language segues to another topic of importance in my philosophy of teaching and that is the comprehensive musician approach. I believe in developing a rounded musician in the sense that they understand how to incorporate music into their focused discipline of music study whether that be performance, education, composition, etc. Just as with a language, all words and applications of grammar are applicable in every speaking situation. I believe in teaching music in this way; that the student takes importance to all topics as they relate to their instrument.
As any instructor would hope to do, I hope to create a positive and safe environment in my teaching space. I hope to create an environment in which my students are not afraid to ask questions or be shy to participate in performance, written, or aural skills lessons. My approach to creating this is through appreciation of music and its difficulties; allowing the students to understand that the concepts may take time to fully comprehend and mistakes are ok. I teach by positive reinforcement and encouragement for the student to at least try, even if they feel they may fail. As an example, if a student is struggling with accurately playing a scale then I will encourage smaller steps from that student; perhaps just an exercise to accurately play just two notes at a time. As long as the student is putting forth the effort to improve their weaknesses, I do not wish for that student to fail. Everyone develops differently and at a different pace and I feel that needs to be recognized and accounted for in my teaching curriculum.
I want my students engaged in the topic of music as one that relates to their lives in more ways than just that of sitting blindly in their practice session. I want for my students to relate to the topics in all of their music studies and perhaps even some other academic studies. It is important to me that my students walk away with an appreciation for music, music theory, and those that contribute to our music culture.