August 2005 Convention
San Diego, CA

Pedagogy Potpourri Part 1

Thursday, August 11

Attending these pedagogy potpourri sessions as a teacher is always a convention highlight. The 20-minute presentations are packed with pearls of insight, and I always leave with renewed inspiration to begin a new academic year.

The first session, entitled “Teaching Your Students to Practice for Success,” began with a reminder from presenter Julia Larson Mattern that the teacher’s job is not to motivate, but to inspire. Her session listed 12 ways to equip students with tools to succeed and experience “light bulb” moments. Tips included how to practice (e.g. setting specific goals for each practice session and staying focused), how to listen critically (taping lessons and practice sessions for later review or analyzing professional recordings) and how to solve problems (playing passages on one pitch to focus on rhythm only; finding skeleton melodies; using note groupings or chunking to work out difficult fingering).

Helen Spielman led the second session on the topic of “Musical Adventures: Exciting Vistas Beyond the Flute Lesson.” Clearly earning her MME distinction (that’s “Master of Musical Escapades!”), Spielman creatively enriched her students’ musical experiences a few years ago by organizing a trip to London for four middle school students. Highlights included a masterclass with Wissam Boustany, a visit to museums and a flute factory, participating in a “Flutewise” event, and attending The Phantom of the Opera with a personal backstage tour from the orchestra’s flutist. Not all adventures need be on such a grand scale, however. Consider inviting students to a local ice cream parlor to share summer experiences and perhaps play a short piece for each other, or organize a masterclass with a local master teacher. These teachers could include non-flutists, such as a clarinet professor, singer-songwriter, or piano teacher. Invite your students to play for a church service. The important thing is to be well-organized, collect the money in advance, and include food—a real magnet for student events.

Christine Potter led the third session on the topic “Got Rhythm?” Beginning students should be encouraged to use a metronome, perhaps playing a game to see how long they can hold a note. Potter’s five-step process, called Learning Rhythm Sequence, helps ensure solid rhythm: marking beats in the music (student does this, not teacher), clapping with metronome while saying rhythm on a neutral syllable, playing rhythm using one pitch, playing rhythm using first pitch of each measure, and playing as written. Potter encourages using words to represent rhythms, such as “pizza” (two eighths), “pie” (quarter note), “cheese” (half note), “pepperoni” (four sixteenths), and “grasshopper” (eighth and two sixteenths). The audience had fun together, trying out this clever and clear way to work on rhythm patterns with students. To ensure that students play with a steady beat, use books with CD accompaniments (“metronomes in disguise!”).

—Rosene Rohrer