I began my teaching career in Chicago roughly fifteen years ago as a traveling teacher who provided private voice and piano lessons to students along the North Shore of the city. Since that time I've held many positions, from K-8 general music teacher, children's musical director and chorus leader, to theory teaching assistant at Roosevelt University/CCPA where I received my masters. Then, as a teaching artist at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for seven years, I had the privilege to help develop the group piano curicculum for 3-8 year olds and to teach classes in piano and voice for students of all ages and of all musical disciplines. As a private piano instructor, I've guided beginning students through to works of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc as well as teaching folk/pop/rock styles of piano to professional performers. My voice students have ranged from musical theater performers, singer-songwriters and actors looking to hone their vocal skills to beginners looking for a rewarding hobby. Many of my students have received top marks at competitions, have been awarded full/half tuition scholarships for study at their college of choice, and have gone on to succeed as performers on the stage and in the recording studio.
As a classically-trained singer and pianist, technical development is a priority for my work with students, but it is a means to an end and not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal of learning to sing or play piano is to have the ability to create meaningful art that impacts others, drawing from technical skills to create nuance and diverse expression based upon an understanding of text, style, and composition. Learning to sing freely is the key to discovering your unique voice and to mastering various styles of music; thus, much of the work we'll do in lessons centers on releasing tension and conditioning the voice to be free. Piano students will experience similar training; freedom in the arms, wrists, and fingers will allow them to shape their pieces into sophisticated music with a wide range of expression.
Every person on Earth is given a certain aptitude, whether great or small, for becoming a musician. Even if the extent of a person’s involvement in music is casual enjoyment and not in professional pursuit, there is a valid place in our society for all who seek to engage in musical performance. As both a professional musician and educator, I am motivated by the thrill of discovery and the challenge presented by the quest to realize musical potential, and I aim to inspire that same passion and motivation in my students.
My first initiative as educator is to develop trust with students and to create a safe environment in which they feel the freedom to explore and take risks without hesitation. During our time together, my primary goal is to come to fully understand students by assessing their individual strengths and weaknesses, interests, and style of learning/communication and with this knowledge construct a long-range plan for each that involves practical, attainable developmental goals. The way in which I communicate new ideas will have a great impact on how well they progress toward these goals; clarity must be established from the very beginning. I have learned to articulate concepts in a way that I trust resonates with and motivates students, helping them to uncover their unique voices as artists and guiding them along a path that will help them discover where they best fit into the vast and eclectic world of the musical arts.
The cultivation of musical skill is a living, adaptable thing that requires me to adjust my methods based on many different factors, including students’ level of development, aptitude for performance skills, and responsiveness to vocabulary and concepts. Steadfast attention is required of both me and my students to ensure progress is made in the working toward goals because progress is an irreplaceable motivator. Discipline, and ownership of personal development on the students’ part, is a most important catalyst for progress; thus, it is vital for me to teach students proper practice methods that will provide them with a sufficient level of confidence and independence for time spent outside the teaching studio. Students should be aware that progress may be measured in small successes that provide a foundation for continued development of skills over a lifetime; moreover, I strive to acknowledge all progress, no matter how slight, and to provide as much encouragement and positive reinforcement as practical feedback.
Beyond simply imparting technical knowledge to students, I must create expectations based upon perceived abilities of students and hold them to a reasonable standard. I must not be satisfied to allow my students to perform at a level lower than what they are capable of, and I must encourage them to strive for continually higher levels of artistry. I also endeavor to incite passion and appreciation for music in my students by encouraging extracurricular exploration of performances at available venues, teaching them to create their own opportunities, and by introducing them to aspects of the art that are new and exciting.
Finally, I have learned through my own work as both teacher and student that the student-teacher relationship should be one of mutual respect and is quite often a collaborative process. Thus, I endeavor to keep an open mind and to listen to and validate my students, to continue to expand upon pedagogical skills, to maintain a strong network of teaching artists with whom I exchange ideas/methods, and to remain relevant to the art and to students by exercising my own abilities as a performing artist at the professional level.