My journey to becoming a professional musician would not have been possible without the inspirational teachers who guided me along the way. From the public school teacher who first placed a viola in my hands when I was 8 years old, to the world-renowned professor I studied with for my Master’s degree, each has had a profound influence in shaping the violist I have become today. My hope is to be same kind of mentor for all my students.
As a teacher, I believe it is my job to inspire a thirst for excellence within each student I work with. Whether a young beginner or advanced high school student, the technical demands of playing a stringed instrument require a level of dedication and problem solving skills that can translate to any life discipline. Achieving excellence in playing in is not unlike training for a sport or preparing for the SAT; all require a level of commitment, consistency, and dedication to yield success. In my studio, students cultivate a skill set I like to refer to as the Three E’s:Ease, Efficiency, & Enthusiasm.
To play with ease means to play freely. This sense of freedom applies to both the physical and mental aspects of performance. Physically, we strive to play free of tension, making every note that’s played effortless. This is facilitated by a strong emphasis on foundation skills and technique (scales, arpeggios, etudes, etc.) that lay the groundwork for true command over the instrument. A strong technical foundation enables the student to be free musically, allowing them to explore the expressive side of their musicianship. In the end, we want playing the instrument to feel easy and inherently natural. As I say to every student: “Don’t bring yourself to the viola... let it become a part of you.”
In a world where a student’s extracurricular activities are rarely limited to just private lessons, efficiency is a key component of successful musical development. Many students tend to go through the motions when practicing, mindlessly going over what their teacher told them to within a prescribed amount of time. Lather, rinse, and repeat, the student is now at their lesson a week later and not much has improved since the last time. This puzzled me until I realized that in order for a student to grow consistently, the focus must shift from merely WHAT they are practicing to HOW and WHY they choose to approach it. This degree of critical thinking not only improves the quality of their work, but also positively affects the student’s time management. Truly efficient practice allows one to achieve twice the amount of work in half the time.
The final “E”, enthusiasm, is in many ways the most important element of my teaching philosophy. In my studio, I aim to not only develop smart musicians, but students who also love what they do. By teaching them to celebrate the small victories in their playing and to embrace the musical process, we can find the real joy in making music. Whether a student further pursues it as a profession or just keeps music as a hobby, I want them to look back at their time with me as a positive and rewarding experience.