Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy
University of Oklahoma
In the past year, I’ve been reminded of music’s powerful ability to unite society in both moments of joy and suffering. The privilege of being a twenty-first century music educator therefore comes with great responsibility. Effective music educators have the important task of developing future generations of musicians who will become much-needed contributing members of society. Recent changes in technology have directly impacted effective teaching methods. Twenty-first century students have an infinite amount of information available at their fingertips, requiring effective educators to serve as facilitators of learning rather than simply a source of knowledge. Both in the studio and classroom, I carefully consider the sequence in which I present skills and/or concepts. Through guided questioning, engaging exercises, and relatable activities, I lead students down a path of discovery, which results in a more meaningful learning experience.
Establishing an environment where all students feel safe to learn and comfortable to express themselves is of great significance to me. I enthusiastically celebrate student individuality and diversity, and encourage exploration of their interests and passions. I firmly believe that all types of learners deserve the opportunity to experience the art of music making. Exploring diverse ways to present materials and accommodate the learning needs of each student is a stimulating challenge.
In my studio and classroom, I consciously praise individual growth by focusing on the process, rather than the result. Stanford University professor of psychology Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2016) illuminates how educators have the ability to nurture a growth mindset in the classroom. Dweck writes that “…the way [teachers] praise (conveying the processes that lead to learning), the way they treat setbacks (as opportunities for learning), and the way they focus on deepening understanding (as the goal of learning)” contribute to a growth mindset learning environment. Growth mindset is equally significant in the group piano lab. Group piano instructors must display empathy towards the challenges of learning a secondary instrument and frame setbacks as learning opportunities.
The applied studio and pedagogy classroom are special environments that provide a unique opportunity to inspire a passion for learning. It is my mission as an educator to spark curiosity within each student, for curiosity will inspire a life enriched with continued learning. My primary task is to provide students the necessary skills needed to become a self-sufficient learner whom embraces their individuality and creativity. I believe that educators have an obligation to model the character and academic excellence desired of students. Through professionalism, kindness, and empathy, I create mutual respect with my students and colleagues. My curiosity for learning is visible to students through performances of new repertoire, written publications, and research presented in workshops. In return, I require three things of my students: to be enthusiastic for our shared love of music, to be willing to take musical risks, and to actively participate with an open mind for growth.
 Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Success of Psychology (New York: Ballantine Books, 2016), 221.