Teaching Philosophy

As a vocal educator and choral pedagogue my objective is to motivate students toward greater independence and individual achievement through a collaborative learning process. To facilitate this goal, it is my aim to provide students with an educational experience that allows them to explore, critically analyze, reflect, and contribute to their development as a musician, scholar, educator, and citizen. My teaching philosophy is anchored in three basic principles: setting an exploratory, positive, and collaborative learning environment; incorporating differentiated instruction and assessment; and promoting critical thinking within our field of study.

The primary pillar of successful learning is to establish a positive environment in which students feel safe to explore, inquire, debate, and work collaboratively with their teacher and peers. Establishing a positive environment means asking questions such as, "What is the student telling me they need?" and "What’s now possible?" Teaching in this manner can help place focus on students’ individual needs, and engage in proactive versus reactive teaching. In my experience, this means stepping away from the traditional paradigm of teacher-oriented instruction, and into a facilitator/collaborator model. Students should be given the opportunity to explore and work with the information in a variety of ways and learning modalities, allowing them to have a sense of ownership in the process. Research suggests that students learn less by frequent teacher feedback, and more when enabled to work with newfound information and develop understanding through individual exploration and facilitated feedback.

The second pillar of my pedagogy grows from my past public education experience. Since no two students enter the classroom with the same experiences, abilities, knowledge, readiness/willingness to learn, or needs, a diversified approach is needed. In the typical classroom, students are expected to learn the same skills and concepts regardless of these individual differences. In the arts, students have a wide array of experiences and talents. Within the choral classroom, students without prior musical experience learn beside students with extensive vocal training and experience. This makes differentiated instruction an important tool in master teaching. Examples of this model include: student modeling, one-on-one instruction within the group setting, kinesthetic awareness and movement during tech-time (vocal warm-up) and rehearsal process, vocal technique building, musicianship building (aural, theoretical, historical, musical), diverse repertoire and skill building including skills in Contemporary Commercial Music, student conductors and teachers, collaborative group teaching within the rehearsal, and diversified assessment (performance, written, verbal, online).

Teaching in this manner can promote the generation of ideas and communication within the classroom. This leads naturally to my third pillar of pedagogy, that is, students develop abilities to ask questions, make informed judgments, and identify assumptions. Furthermore, we can promote skills in critical thinking by engaging students in dialogue and evaluation of the current model of studio teaching, music education programs, teaching and learning paradigms, and standards-based educational systems. This dialogue can help answer the question, "What skills do the next generation of teachers and learners need to promote growth in our field?" I believe it is important that students are learning skills for the development of their own musicianship, and simultaneously are engaged in learning how to teach these skills to future musicians. We can promote this ideal through modeling the importance of life-long learning. Although, I had a wonderful undergraduate education, there was not time enough to prepare students to teach all that was expected in the public classroom. I did not have the necessary skills to teach music and styles outside of the western classical idiom, and this became the impetus for my research in voice science and contemporary commercial music. It is my goal to prepare future learners and teachers for the demands of the 21st century. This means reorganizing traditional choral pedagogy paradigms, developing pathways between what we currently understand and what we need to learn, and reconfiguring undergraduate music programs to meet the current trends in professional and educational settings.

Through the principles outlined above, my future students will hopefully gain an open-minded outlook on the possibilities of teaching and learning within the voice studio and choral classroom. It is also my hope that this philosophy will help nurture musical independence, forward-thinking ingenuity, and passion for life-long learning.