Music allows us all to express the most profound emotions and the gives us the unique ability to connect with our listeners and share these emotions. My ultimate goal as a teacher is to realize the expressive potential within each student. To achieve this goal, every student will explore and perform a diverse array of works from the guitar literature. Every student will relate to various pieces differently, so students and I will work together to discover what truly motivates them to play at the highest levels of expression. Lessons will guide students to respond to the music they play in ways which are both aesthetically appealing to themselves as well as being moving to listeners. One's goal is to become a musician, not just a guitarist.
In order to understand music it is essential to be able to read music. Students should have as firm a grasp on written music as they do any written language they study. Reading exercises are assigned every week, solfege is used to vocalize melodies in lessons, and students learn to vocalize rhythms. I also incorporate music theory into every lesson by discussing theoretical components of each piece. Dedicated time for music theory is given to all advanced students. Students and I will actively listen to recordings, followed by an open discussion of how dynamics, rubato, articulation, timbre, and vibrato were used and how those components affected the performance.
To bring the expressive potential in each student to light, a solid technical foundation must be
established. In my classes and lessons this is achieved through the study of scales selected from Segovia, Shearer, and Iznaola (Kitharalogus); arpeggios selected from Giuliani, Tárrega, Carlevaro, and Iznaola; exercises for left hand development; position studies selected from Shearer; sight-reading selected from Sight Reading for the Classical Guitar by Robert Benedict; and the study of fretboard harmony selected from McFadden. The most important factor in technical development is our study of didactic literature. This study of pieces with a definitive technical aim will allow for the physical development necessary for each student to reach the heights of musical expression. It is important to explore a variety of this literature, and my students study pieces from works of the early masters including Carcassi, Sor, Aguado, Giuliani, and others, to the studies of nineteenth century composers such as Coste, Mertz, and Tárrega, to those of Pujol, Sagreras, Villa-Lobos and beyond. Students are assessed through cumulative performances designed as ways to check performance preparedness and as means to have students thoughtfully analyze their own practice techniques in order to advance to higher levels of playing. Periodic evaluations, with certifications given for individual lessons and letter grades given to conservatory students, are given in order to assess students' progress. However, these are also means of encouraging students to build their own more mindful practice skills.
Parallel to the idea of discovering new things as a musician is the idea of discovering new minds and cultures. Similarly, learning how to analyze and evaluate one's own skills as a musician parallels learning to understand other points of view. In my classes I try to expose the students to different situations to help them gain these skills, including interacting with classmates with different backgrounds, taking different roles when working in ensembles as either leader by taking charge of musical decisions for the group, or as collaborator. This is also done by taking different roles when working individually as either performer or evaluator, asking each student to evaluate their performances objectively as if they were the teacher. By doing so, I hope to provide the students the opportunity to learn not only exceptional performers, but also to realize that around them there is much to learn. I value diversity and inclusion and am committed to a climate of mutual respect and civility among members of the community. I also recognize that disability is an aspect of diversity. My goal is to create learning environments that are usable, equitable, inclusive and welcoming.
Playing the guitar is incredibly rewarding for both student and teacher. Students ultimately take away a lifelong skill, whether they choose to pursue it professionally or play for their own pleasure. As a teacher, I find it exhilarating to train students who will be part of the next generation of guitarists, and to continue the growth in the quality of musicians who choose to play the guitar.