My Approach to Music Education
I am a music teacher dedicated to the pursuit of general and instrumental music education in the urban setting. Although I play and perform on a variety of instruments, I consider myself first and foremost an educator and I view my responsibility to my students as helping them discover who they are and how they can work with others through music. As a music educator, I want to ensure my students are learning not just knowledge but vital skills that they can carry with them into all aspects of their lives. The music, above all else, should accurately reflect my students’ cultural identities, whether it is couched in Mexican folk music or pop music. Yet perhaps more importantly, the process should encourage my students’ social and intellectual development through an informal environment requiring critical thinking, listening, collaboration, investigation, and analysis. Whether my students end up as professional musicians or not is of no concern. Rather, I hope they will grow up with the autonomy to be independent and successful in their chosen paths, and with the social skills and awareness to be critical but supportive members of their community, their culture, and their world.
As for access to high quality and rigorous music education, I believe all students should have the opportunity to experience, participate in, and learn about music regardless of age or location. Nothing gives me more joy than sharing my love of music with the next generation of students and seeing them light up upon having a truly inspiring musical experience.
In general music for lower elementary school students (roughly ages 4 to 8), my primary objective is to provide students with a foundational appreciation for and understanding of music in a positive, fun, exploratory environment. In addition to learning the building blocks of music (beat, rhythm, melody, form, etc.), I also encourage students to engage with music in a variety of unique ways. I am especially interested in fostering connections to the dances, lyrics, musicians, and ideas that are relevant in their lives. Do they love a particular popular song? I'll find a covers of that song played on various instruments so we can compare and contrast the timbre and means of sound production. Are they all showing off their best versions of popular dance moves every chance they get? We'll incorporate those moves into Tchaikovsky's "Trepak" from The Nutcracker to illustrate the form of the music. Through creative adaptations of traditional games, songs, and dances, students can develop more fully as musical beings engaged in listening, creating, performing, evaluating, improvising, and responding to the world around them.
My approach to beginning instrumental music instruction is, like my approach to general music, focused on the student having a positive and engaging music-making experience. For students first learning how to play violin at the age of 9 or 10, my primary objective is to provide students with the skills necessary to have fun with their instrument and create music that is meaningful to them. At every step - from learning basic posture and the names of the strings, to playing full songs with both the bow and fingers on the strings - we are making music together. Thus, even if the skill we are learning is not specifically about sound production, we incorporate it into satisfying musical experiences. I use a combination of written musical literacy and rote learning in the classroom to make the best use of our limited time in the classroom. Performance repertoire features both students' requests and my own selections, and virtually no song request is off-limits so long as I can find or create a skill-appropriate version that highlights students' strengths, interests, and musical growth.