Music is one of those difficult fields of study that combine the emotional with the factual, the artistic with the disciplined, and the inherent with the learned. It is something that comes natural to all of us, but its highest levels of achievement remain elusive to all but a group of seemingly “chosen” few. It is an integral part of all cultures, but is often viewed as frivolous and unnecessary. These dichotomies, and the gray area in between, are the views that all music teachers must find a way of fusing together in their desire to pass along music to others.

I believe that anyone, regardless of experience, is capable of learning music. That being said, students need guidance in a few major areas. The first is that the love of music does not translate to its’ understanding. Because of the simple joys that music can bring, students often overlook, or are afraid to see, how much discipline it takes to become knowledgeable in music. Practice and studying are to be added to playing and listening; the combination of these four aspects of music education leads to a balanced and capable musician.

Second, students need to learn how to learn. Learning is not only about receiving information and internalizing it, (although this is a necessary aspect as well) it is also about knowing how to evaluate what is already learned and ask new questions about this knowledge. Once the question is formed, then the students need to know how to find the answers to their own questions. Teaching learning is about showing students how to go through this process.

Third, music students need to understand that as important as music is, it is not the only thing in the world worth knowing about. Music is both culture and a mirror of culture. To fully understand music, students need to learn about all other aspects of life around them. General study of other disciplines leads to a more thorough, deeper understanding of the music that is being studied or created.

Last, a proper balance of history and the present needs to be instilled in all teaching. Music is part of a long chain of events that lead to modern day views of the art, and to understand what music is today, we need to fully understand its past. With this knowledge we can properly approach the present and future. Technology has always been an integral part of the development of music, and its use is one of the greatest assets that students have today. Using history and modern technology together is an essential part of the education of today’s musician.

I approach my teaching with the unique perspective of a musician who learned how to play their instrument as an adult. My memories of learning about music are very clear, and the struggles I went through are within recent memory. I readily understand how it feels to be overwhelmed by a new topic in music, and can sympathize with the student. I can also clearly recall the approaches that I took to overcome these difficulties, and can relate them to the student in a practical way. Combined with years of teaching in different college settings as well as research in modern approaches to education, my experiences as a student are an integral part of my uniquely balanced approach to teaching.

Dave Mattock