Slider 3Teaching is my passion! When I consider my teaching and learning strategies I can honestly say that I have lived all the ideals I promote. There are three principles I instill in my students to make them well-rounded musicians: diversity and inclusion, injury and pain prevention and authenticity in performance.

Born in South Africa, I grew up in an extremely diverse culture which recognizes eleven official languages and hosts a population with greatly varying economic circumstances. It is in this environment where I saw that music can provide hope, comfort and joy in times where circumstances are uncertain.

Seeing first-hand how diversity can be celebrated has taught me that it isn’t a topic that should be avoided due to fear of using possibly offensive words. Treating diversity in a diplomatic manner or omitting discussions about this topic from lessons does not send the message that diversity should be celebrated! Any individuals from a non-traditional background would be proud to speak about their heritage, given the opportunity. Incorporating these students’ life experiences into the lessons gives the non-traditional students a sense of belonging.

My journey has been one filled with physical discomfort. Because I stand 6 feet and 5 inches tall, the flute’s horizontal playing position can become problematic as my muscles fatigue. It was after a performance where I could barely move my wrist that I knew I had to make a change. An X-ray would reveal that the curvature in my spine was off by seventeen degrees and that I had developed 3 degrees of scoliosis. What followed were years of chiropractic care, traction of the spine, Rolfing sessions, acupuncture, massages and Chinese cupping. Even though my body healed itself and I am pain free today, I know how difficult and possibly career-ending an injury can be.

I discovered Body Mapping, which refers to the way we subconsciously trace our bodies. Practical exercises that change the way we hold the instrument and use our body in an advantageous manner are applied. I have studied this practice deeply and have taken numerous lessons from certified Body Mapping instructors. My hope is to become a certified teacher myself in the near future to be able to help students even more in this area.

I assign focused, goal-based practice techniques to every student in lessons. I want my students to experience every practice session as an opportunity to better themselves. Nothing builds more self-confidence than practicing with lasting results. Too often the amount of music assigned in lessons can become problematic, even unfair, given students’ physical constraints. I find it valuable to assign additional material related to the student’s study. Reading, listening and writing assignments can inform students in a way that hours behind an instrument never will.

Guiding students towards finding their own personal voice is essential in that we are recreating other people’s art while putting our own individual stamp on our performances. Open discussions about styles, periods, nationalism, historic events, important recordings, informed historical music practice and cultural traditions are important elements in developing each student’s artistic voice.

It has always been my goal to position myself in such a way that I can help students with any obstacle they might encounter. For this reason, I have done extensive work with anxiety and performance coaches to combat the nerves associated with performance anxiety. Visualization and mental toughness techniques can provide students with a stability that is unsurpassed by any other practice technique. I consciously build a positive energy of support and nurture towards myself and my students, which in return births an environment where students can thrive.

I believe that it is our obligation as educators to encourage a culture of experimentation and entrepreneurship in our students. We sustain the art form for future generations this way but more importantly, we also build a community that is able to advocate for the arts. For this reason, I think that students should spend their time at University not only improving their technical abilities, but also experimenting with secondary interests that could be incorporated into their careers. By the time students graduate, they should have already begun to cultivate the seeds of a sustainable career in the arts. Artistic development and making a mark in the field of music are topics I regularly discuss with my students. By encouraging a culture of experimentation and entrepreneurship, not only do we sustain the art form for future generations but we also build a community that is able to advocate for the arts.

It is important to prepare a student for life of a performer and a teacher. A professional artist with the complementary skills of an educator is a much stronger advocate for the arts. It is important to teach our students through example that they can be ambassadors for music in their communities. This awareness of lifelong curiosity is inspiring to individuals and I think we must demand more from fellow musicians in terms of promotion, diversification and expansion of the audience base in terms of community engagement.

It is our role as teachers to not only support but also encourage our students. Choice of words in lessons is extremely important and can affect internal dialogue for the rest of the student’s life. If we as teachers start from the premise that every student has unlimited potential that is just waiting to be tapped into, we can assure that our students will get excited about their instrument or subject material. Using these principles with sincere enthusiasm and empathy shapes learners in a way that is inspiring to see.