It was never my intention to teach. Immersed in the influence of hometown greats such as Dr. Isaac Greggs, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard and Alvin Baptiste as a young musician, teaching wasn’t first on my list of accomplishments. I would say that the middle school teacher that taught me to play the trumpet saved my life. I should have known at that time that a passion for sharing, mentoring and inspiring would eventually guide me to where I am today.
I believe that in order to teach the student, you must first be the student. I always say that I learn something from every student that walks through my door. That’s because in order for me to teach them in the most effective way possible, I must learn so many things about them. I must learn why they chose to play their instrument. I must learn what kind of education they had prior to coming to me. I must learn the impact to their lives of where they live and the experiences they’ve had. Most importantly, I must learn how they learn. Which intelligence do they rely on most for learning? My experiences as a college instructor these last eleven years have taught me that millennial students tend to be highly visual. Their immersion in digital media and high technology communication sometimes makes the older, tried and true methods of instruction ineffective. Add to that the added complexity that may exist because of differing learning styles and teaching can become a different experience each day. I tend to see the bright side in that it keeps me on my toes because I can never be boring or unable to engage in the classroom or the studio. I enjoy learning new ways to reach my students. I enjoy utilizing technology in the classroom because it’s something we can all learn together, thereby increasing learning outcomes because of the collaborative learning environment. From most accounts, I would say that my students appreciate the individual attention they get in an environment that can be expansive, impersonal and intimidating.
Because I get a wide range of proficiency levels with my music students, I believe and I teach that education is more than knowledge. It is mostly motivation. My goal is to get each student to comprehend or perform at a level where they can feel as if they are as accomplished as the most accomplished in my class. With my many ensembles I am charged with instilling the motivation in each student that allows individuals to play as a unit. Without this motivation, any student from the worst to the best will find it difficult to exceed their current capabilities.
Finally, I always stress to my students that the knowledge they have, or don’t have, will ultimately come out of the bell of their instrument. I am not only referring to knowledge of music, but knowledge of life. As an instructor of music appreciation and music history, I strive to instill in my students the desire to learn as much as they can about the history of the world and how music was influenced by the times. I am not simply building the next generation of musicians but the next generation of historians. Ultimately, the best musicians are able to tell stories through the music the play. Thus, the more they know, the better they play.