As a general teaching philosophy, I believe that the importance of music education in anyone’s life imparts benefits far beyond the obvious mastering of an instrument. Among these well-documented advantages are the opportunities for students to develop patience, self-discipline, creativity, and personal responsibility. It is an ongoing personal goal of mine, to bring out the natural confidence and musicality innately instilled within each student. Teaching music is one of my life’s greatest joys.
Following in the footsteps of my mother and grandfather, it is important to me to bring positive reinforcement to my students. Creating a positive learning environment assists students in cultivating a balanced attitude toward life-long learning in any endeavor that is undertaken.
For over fifteen years, I have been honored to teach students of all ages and performing levels in the field of classical flute and piccolo. An essential goal for teaching flute and piccolo students is to encourage them to play musically and beautifully, rather than an exclusive development of mechanical or technical facility. Teaching has allowed me to more deeply understand the value of tone and technical studies as essential building blocks that lead naturally and effortlessly to the beautiful repertoire written for flute.
Generally, an outline for each lesson is developed and divided into sections to help build a well-rounded flutist. By dividing the lessons into tone studies, technique and theory, sight-reading, etude study, repertoire and orchestral excerpts, I find that my students are well balanced, and it allows me to identify incorrect habits or mistakes, and apply creative and individualized solutions.
Students entrusted in my care are invited to participate in two recitals per year, one in summer and one in winter. Many are working on achieving the goals required for the Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) Achievement Award, and the majority of students participate in the Music Teachers Association of California’s (MTAC) Certificate of Merit program. In addition, all students are invited to participate in the many events sponsored by the San Diego Flute Guild. For every two years of consecutive study, students receive the MTNA Music Study Award. Many K8trills students have played in the CAPMT/MTNA District Flute Festivals, and in the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Solo and Ensemble Festival.
Another important aspect in my studio is that younger students who enjoy piccolo are not discouraged to do so! I have found that starting them as young as possible on piccolo allows them to develop the strength and beauty of tone needed to play this tiny cousin to the flute! As piccolo playing often becomes something students “survive” or are fearful of, this has been quite a successful alternative to starting students later in their development. A watchful eye is imperative to detect any tendency toward tension in the embouchure when the student creates too small of a hole for the air to pass through on flute or piccolo; but a devoted student will outcreate this in their daily practice. Experience has shown me that the smaller and more refined air column created to play the piccolo can often create a more clear tone on the flute as a result. It’s been such a joy to encourage students to work on becoming more comfortable and secure in switching back and forth between flute and piccolo, and maintaining a flexible embouchure to ensure that the lips do not become too tight when returning to the flute. One can play anything on piccolo that they would play on flute. Many younger students even seem to enjoy playing their scales and long tones on piccolo one day, and flute the next.
Among many additional activities provided, all of my students are invited and encouraged to participate in workshops, flute fairs, NFA conventions, flute choirs and anything else that may inspire them musically and flutistically. For example, in 2008, students participated in the LA Philharmonic’s educational outreach program, “Music Matters” where students played in a masterclass and workshop with Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway. The students are always thrilled to take field trips to see amazing flutists perform throughout the area, and some of our favorites have been Amy Porter, Jean Ferrandis, Christina Jennings, Thomas Robertello, Marianne Gedegian, Jim Walker, and Jeannie Baxstresser.
In closing, I find that in the world of music, competitiveness can often foster an antagonistic attitude amongst students. One of the aspects that is enlivened in my studio, is rather than a negative competitiveness, a supportive and cooperative spirit is required, where the students are not only acquainted with one another, but that they support, encourage, and assist one another, resulting in becoming kind and generous flutists.