From my personal experience, I have found that teaching is one of the most noble, profound and intimate ways of sharing my knowledge and love for what I do with others. However, this marks just the beginning of the process. Teaching and learning go hand in hand and I look for an ongoing exchange of questions and ideas. And it is this exchange that creates the most fertile opportunities for growth in myself and my students. Once I understood how invaluable education was, I knew at that point that I wanted to be an active, regular participant; a life-long learner. I thrive on the challenge of thinking about, solving and explaining a technical or musical problem. In this capacity, I am challenged to think differently and creatively for new ways to solve old problems.
As a student of several outstanding trumpet studios, I have learned that an excellent music studio shares four main qualities; (1) the members of the studio work together as a team; (2) they are given the necessary tools for a successful career; (3) a positive attitude is fostered; and (4) all members feel accepted, welcomed and appreciated for their unique abilities, talents and interests.
First, I encourage members of my studio to work as a team and spend time together making music, listening, practicing and performing. This helps them listen to each other play their instrument in and out of the classroom and learn from each other. I often tell my students they can learn more from their peers than myself because of the time spent in each other’s company. For example, when one of them hears another play with the most beautiful sound or great tonguing or style, they are encouraged to ask that person specifics of how they learned to do this or that. This is what makes a strong, thriving studio. The best players come out of the best studios because they learn from and encourage each other to succeed and they work together as a team pulling each other along.
Second, there are certain necessary tools that I give my students because I know they are essential to their success. During weekly lessons I emphasize the basics of tone production, breathing and relaxation, articulation, style, nuance and phrasing. During our initial lessons, strengths and weaknesses in their playing are discussed and steps are taken to convert those weaknesses into strengths. To do this, our repertoire consists of relevant etude books, technical exercises, solos, orchestral excerpts and other method books but I also stress the need to read books on brass pedagogy, history, autobiographies and books dealing with the psychology of music performance. Additionally, I believe in the importance of being versatile in many musical styles and genres because it gives my students the tools and the confidence to perform well in any setting. My students are encouraged to seek out as many performance opportunities as possible on and off campus, from recitals to concerts and gigs with jazz groups, Latin bands, brass quintets, polka bands and studio work. These opportunities will provide my students a real life experience of a working musician. In addition to lessons and ensembles, my studio would offer a weekly performance class where students are asked to prepare a solo or lecture-recital based on various topics, such as performance of a cornet solo, a slow piece, a fast and flashy solo,
or a French or German style etude or excerpt, etc. This approach helps provide my students the building blocks for success through a keen knowledge of musical styles and experiences.
Third, a positive attitude is essential in my studio. I remind my students that there will always be problems and struggles with one’s technique but I ask them to assiduously seek out solutions from their teachers and their peers. When we make a mistake, we have a choice on how to respond. My teachers have always helped me negotiate problems during a lesson by directing my attention to the beauty of the music while addressing technical issues along the way. Furthermore, I believe humor is an excellent tool to lighten the spirit and is always welcome in my studio. Somehow, humor seems to help keep the absurdity of trumpet and life in perspective.
Fourth, and most importantly, I want my students, whether as a member of my private studio, classroom or ensemble, to feel welcome, respected and appreciated. They need to feel that they are an integral part of our school and musical community. So often, many students come from varying and diverse backgrounds and it’s easy to feel ‘lost’ in the college setting away from home. One of the best feelings I got as a student was the knowledge that I was appreciated for my abilities. A good way to foster a feeling of appreciation is by giving each student the opportunity to perform for each other, critique each other (constructive criticism, of course) and get to know each other on and off campus where students can enjoy the company of their peers in a more casual setting. And lastly, I am always available to my students to offer musical advice or mentorship. Their success is my success.
I have observed the effectiveness of my studio when I see my students are happy, well-adjusted and show regular progress from month to month and year to year. I have seen great successes with many of my students; some have continued their studies as music majors or minors, some have continued on to graduate school, others have won concerto competitions at their schools and major national competitions.
Ultimately, my studio is a reflection of who I am as a musician, teacher and person. As I expect only the very best from myself, I would want each member of my studio to mirror that within themselves and their peers. In selecting members of my studio, it does not matter where they are from, their background, social status or other factors. What matters to me is that my students have basic musical talent, are eager to work hard and recognize the necessity to improve as quickly as possible. I always make an effort to meet my students where they are and take them as far as they can go. I am demanding when I need to be and sympathetic as well. Thanks to my teachers I know the value of working together as a team, developing the right tools for success, having a positive attitude and outlook with trumpet and life, and the importance of friendship and appreciation for our individual talents.