A LITTLE MORE (EXHAUSTIVE!) IN DEPTH...
My Life As A Teacher and Chronic Student of Music...
Traditional music teachers are more or less trained to administer a system of learning via curriculum and ensure that students follow this system. In my ten years of teaching music, the most important skill I have honed is not how to administer a system of learning but rather how to inspire a student to embrace the learning process. The greatest tool any student can have is a teacher that supports the ability for them to engage in the material they want to learn. In music training, you encourage your student to desire playing their instrument because they love it. As a teacher, I am committed to stirring up passion, love, and exuberance in my students' musical endeavours; not simply promoting mechanical learning-by-rote habits.
I am, myself, by every definition of the word a chronic and unrelenting student. I have been lucky enough to satisfy my curiosity for learning through completing a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience, a Diploma in Music Production and Engineering, and my current training as a psychotherapist. My programs have introduced me to the worlds of music cognition, psychology, computer science, linguistics, philosophy and the psychotherapeutic process. My life as a teacher and student both share one common and over-arching feature: they are heavily interdisciplinary.
One particular work experience that has deepened my appreciation for music education was my position as game designer and composer for a rehabilitative music software program funded by Bloorview Sick Kids hospital. My job was to design musical exercises that incorporated current research on neuroplasticity and instantiate them into game levels that improved cognitive capacities such as reasoning, memory, attention, comprehension, language and decision making. By utilizing current research in music and memory, I would design a game level that would contain a task like pattern recognition and create an entertaining platform in which children could engage in a myriad of pattern recognition exercises. I learned a great deal from this work, but I still craved the experiential and embodied connection of real human interaction. I didn’t want to merely be the creator of a system of learning - I wanted to be immersed in the teaching itself.
I have been teaching guitar, piano and music for the past twelve years. As many musicians before me, my formal training in music has taken me through the halls of the Royal Conservatory. However, my best traits arose from years of performing live concerts. During my time at the Conservatory I always maintained a long and passionate love affair with jazz music. Jazz allowed me to break all of the conventions; Jazz music spoke to the adolescent rebel and non-conformist in me much like how punk music speaks to the majority of teens in angst.
Classical music technique is by no means limiting, and is something to be respected and utilized. My students of course still learn a great deal of music from the great musicians before them. However, in my own practice and experience, classical technique contains a major shortcoming- the ability to improvise. Improvisation requires imagination and creativity and is the cornerstone of jazz music. Improvisation demands from the musician and listener a complete non-judgemental and open mind. It embodies a playful characteristic that defies all conventional forms of problem solving and reasoning. Nothing can prepare you for how to deal with many aspects of life. Sometimes you never know what chords are going to come next, but you better be sure you have a melody ready for when those chords come.