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Teaching is an art. It defies reduction to a set of rules or formulae. It is above all a supreme kind of communication between two people, the teacher and the student. Much time is wasted in debate over just what form this communication should, t1ke. Some advocate this method or that, one philosophy or another. Such arguments miss the point. Good teaching is art, not science, and any attempt to reduce it to pseudoscientific methodology is not only doomed to failure but speaks clearly as to the constricted thinking that even attempts such codification.
I have had the good fortune to know many excellent teachers during my career. As a student, I had several fine trumpet teachers, and as a college professor I have had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding colleagues, first at the University of Northern Iowa and later at the University of North Texas.
The teaching styles of these people have covered such a broad range as to lead me to the conclusion that good teaching defies analysis and narrow prescription. Fine teaching is easy to recognize, impossible to categorize. I have known fine teachers who behaved sternly with their students, and others who were permissive. I have known brilliant pedagogues who were models of organization, and others who practically had to be led to their studios.
There are qualities, however, that have been present in the work of all the really gifted teachers I have known. First, all have cared passionately about their subject. They have loved it, been possessed and at times consumed by it, and have manifested this passion throughout their careers. Second, they have been devoted to their students. This devotion may have been expressed as concern, irritation, sympathy, even anger. But it is real concern, the kind that says to the student that he or she is capable of meeting high standards and of learning and producing at a level that rejects academic or artistic compromise.
One of the most challenging aspects of teaching musical performance is that the subject demands immediate, clear, and public demonstration. There is no hiding place for the performer on the stage, and, likewise, none for the teacher. Our efforts are there for the world to hear. Such discipline is harsh but honest. It allows little room for charlatans, and it precludes resting on yesterday's accomplishments.
My interest in performance and teaching are as vigorous today as they were in my student days. Music itself and the students who pursue it are the inspiration for my enthusiasm. Music and its practitioners need no apologists; music needs only to be heard in order to inspire, console, or disturb.
One who teaches musical performance must never forget that the reason we do what we do and the very inspiration that will sustain a long career is the music itself. As a teacher, one must remember to return to music daily, to listen as well as to teach and play in order to keep purpose, quality, and meaningful direction in one's work.
Only the music, which drew us in at the beginning, provides the inspiration needed to continue to produce as players and teachers.
Johnson, Keith : University of North Texas
1. The Art of Teaching.
2. Music as Metaphor.
3. Teaching the Young Brass Player.
5. Developing a Concept of Sound.
10. Mouthpiece Playing.
11. The Warm-Up.
14. The Upper Register.
18. Teaching the Young Orchestral Player.
20. Taking Auditions.
21. Playing High Pitched Instruments.
22. Performance Anxiety.
23. Professional Ethics.
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