First and foremost, I believe that teaching is a service industry and requires a love of and dedication to students. To this end, teachers must understand student’s cognitive and emotional maturity at every stage of their development. Recognizing that students are not all the same and change constantly, especially those younger than 30, allows the teacher to be aware of and have an empathy for student’s individual needs. Even in classes with many students, empathy and understanding is key to serving students.
Teachers must know what their students need to know about the subject but also the best way to convey that information and concepts. Teachers must not only be able to convey subject matter but also what students will need in the real world and one of the best ways to do this is to give students projects that reflect real world situations. By giving students assignments and projects that closely reflect what they may encounter in real-life contemporary situations, they are able to relate to the project and learn from the models they are given, have around them, and are provided by their peers. These would not just be projects that simulate what they might need to know to accomplish the task of recording, mixing, editing, composing, and more, but what they will need to know to function in the real world with adult concerns and problems. The “people” factor of the real world work environment is critical to any job but especially critical to the audio professional.
For me, the bottom line of learning is the degree to which a student can utilize the content and information for their personal use. This might manifest itself in as mundane an experience as an assessment or it might be a more sophisticated use of information by transforming what they have learned into a personal creation. Even an essay is a personal creation. By giving students assignments and projects that closely reflect what they may encounter in real-life contemporary situations, they are able to relate to the project and learn from the models they are given by the instructor, are provided by their peers, or have around them every day. Having students constantly sharing and evaluating each other’s work helps in the exchange of information and feedback from someone other than the teacher. I teach music using contemporary genres with the most cutting-edge equipment. Although I command respect from my students, I am not all-knowing and in the aesthetic context of music creation, my opinion is not law. Having guest speakers, master classes, and peer feedback are critical for review of work and reinforcement of learning for the students and the teacher.
I am always looking for an indicator that students are motivated to do the work because they are authentically interested and naturally engaged. They wanted to take the class in the first place so there is a personal motivating factor for them to be there and I feel a moral obligation to spark that within each of them. I encourage students to be authentically engaged with the project rather than just completing an assignment for a grade. I encourage students to be creative beyond the basic parameters of the assignment. The ultimate indicator of the effectiveness of my ability to design and implement engaging instruction is students’ continued pursuit of the craft. I want my students to have a life-long love for learning. Given the technology and the environments we create music in with technology is constantly evolving and changing, students will need to love learning about new technologies to continue to learn as they enter professional careers.
I am known for what has become my motto, “Teach music, the technology will follow”. I believe deeply in this even within the context of teaching specific software and hardware technologies. Although I know there is a skill to conveying the use of technology in a musical context and there is a skill to teaching the basic functions of the software, at the very core of what we do is music. Students need to be aware of the necessary listening and music skills that have us choose what technologies to use when to utilize certain technologies, and how to use them. In the end, technology is the tool that serves the music. Beyond the basic skills of the tool is the greater art of using these tools to access the music. This is no different from learning the subtleties, nuances, and techniques of any musical instrument.
For a glimpse into student feedback on the Greenwich High School Electronic Music classes and teacher, please visit Greenwich High School Electronic Music.