Michelle's Ethos On Teaching
Teaching is always a surprise—always a challenge. Each student comes with unique possibilities. In lessons, we listen together, talk, think, and play, as we go about discovering a musician-in-the-making. I teach sight reading and theory. I usually suggest exercises for increasing flexibility and precision. But rather than a fixed “core” curriculum, I try to work back from a style or song a student loves. We start from the joy of playing and listening and move back to the “nuts-and-bolts,” rather than the other way around. My own tastes in music are eclectic, it's fair to say, and, if anything, expanding. Students help me stay tuned!
Qualifications: I can prepare students for exams in music. I have some reservations about it, however: the requirements tend to be very specific and, from my standpoint, rather narrow. Studying music in this way inevitably suits some students better than others. One size does NOT fit all!
Technology. All things being equal, I would choose to play an acoustic over a digital piano. But there is no such equality! There are excellent digital pianos available now, and there are a great many advantages to them. One of the most important is that they don't go out of tune (I find an out-of-tune piano has a terrible effect on many things, from technique to mood, to say nothing of satisfaction level!). Digitals fit unobtrusively into small domestic spaces; often, they're portable! I myself have come to feel intensely loyal to my Kurzweil. It changes nothing about the majesty of real strings, struck by real felted hammers, resonating through a real room.
The new music streaming technology is brilliant for teaching: I can be speaking to a student about a particular musician's specific performance, and in seconds we're hearing it together. Other software lets students experiment creatively with new sounds.
There are new ways of storing and accessing sheet music, too. Recording, mixing and playback have new technical trajectories of their own, and, I'm glad to say, engineers who know all about them. I'm learning as fast as I can.
Performance: The performance aspect of my teaching centres on recitals — four each year, always in a home environment. All students are invited to prepare a song of their choice for a recital. No one is required to perform, but most decide they want to. So far I've been very lucky in always finding, among my students and their parents, someone willing to open their home to us for an evening! In addition to providing an opportunity for students and their parents to meet and talk, recitals give students a taste of the excitement and satisfaction of live performance. Some get nervous. But in an atmosphere of warmth and support, anxiety soon gives way to a wonderful sense of achievement.