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Flourishing in Music Lessons

Starting the values conversation

· Practical Pedagogy

How do you facilitate eudaemonia (flourishing) with your students? I'm talking about more than repertoire and dots on a page here. What is it about lessons with YOU that excites their inner musician and quest for more? Your students that are children likely don't understand what it means to flourish, but their parents, and your adult students do. When I see what it means to flourish at CMM, I am seeing students come excited to their lessons, they are the kids that bring in music they took initiative on, and they are the ones that play 'just for fun', write their own music, and are musically curious. This to me says there is good pedagogy happening in their lessons. So what exactly does that mean? For this article, these are the 4 most important concepts that define good pedagogy:

  • Kindness and Presence. Feeling the intention of the teacher - that the student is the most important person in the room. Always.
  • Content Curation. Meaningful repertoire, purposeful technic and creative projects that extend beyond baroque, classical and romantic music - what keeps the student interested? 
  • Criticism. Tone of non-verbal and verbal communication is everything. Receiving meaningful feedback that helps students improve is imperative. 
  •  Motion and Motivation. Being musically curious because their teacher has tapped into something that interests them, which gets them looking forward to their own self improvement

Eudaemonia is human flourishing, or well-being of an individual (essential value.) I think as educated teachers, it would be wise if reflected on what makes up a good lesson, or skills necessary to be a 'good' teacher. If you could describe one of those magical lessons, what happened in the lesson and what made it feel like that to you? How can you replicate that more regularly? How much more is good pedagogy than teaching ordered concepts and pieces, technique and theory, performance and maybe an exam of sorts? While those elements are important, what is it that takes us from literate to flourishing?

Self-actualization. In order to truly flourish, we need to be on the path of self-actualization. I have been open about my struggles with one of my advisors in graduate school who valued mechanics over self actualization and original ideas. Flourishing to me, looked differently than it did to her. She thought my asking of questions was about her. No silly, it was about me! I was curious. After two years of a master's degree, I came out disgruntled but for different reasons. I wanted to be the best teacher and musician I could be, but she didn't like that I was independent and my own artist. Based on that relationship, I took a vow that I would never be that teacher. The one that pegged my student for one thing, one way and placed value on him/her as an individual based on that narrow view. When students didn't play exactly how she thought they should, she would say "well they can't play their way out of a paper bag." Imagine if we saw our students as collections of strengths, rather than weaknesses? That's always my goal.

Here is an example of what good pedagogy sounds like.

  • Kindness and Presence: Years of music lessons because they see value from teacher/school. Oldest sister is a junior and has taken for 6 years at CMM, and youngest sister is in her second year of guitar and in the 8th grade
  • Sisters are musically literate (learned song on own)
  • Creativity: Oldest sister arranged the guitar part for youngest sister
  • Stylistically awesome!
  • Dad will join them on a traditional Lebanese instrument for their recital
  • Criticism: Piano student is pedaling correctly, the piano has an issue :-p This was their first time playing together for me, so we made several tempo and tuning adjustments (will show the final video next month) 
  • Lifelong music making with intention and enjoyment is happening with the students performing, as well as the whole family
  • Content Curation: Music is culturally relevant to the student