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TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

        I have taught in a wide range of settings: research institutions, conservatories, religious universities, community colleges, and master classes. While teaching in this array of institutions, I have not forgotten whom I am teaching. I have been able to teach and reach a wide variety of learners from an equally wide array of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. I strive to be sensitive to how my students learn, whether they are one with a learning disability filling a GE requirement at a community college or a prize-winning conservatory student that has had every privilege provided them. I approach teaching as a practice through my continuing education for professors, participating in regular student and faculty teaching evaluations, and informal open classroom conversations with my students about my teaching. As an educator, I strive to impart to my students ways in which they can use their developing musical skills as a tools for social transformation. 

        I am seasoned teacher of music theory and musicianship at all levels. Since these courses require students to recall prerequisite knowledge to advance, I am sensitive to the individual’s abilities. For example, in assessing each student's prior training, I determine the students’ knowledge or skill base, fostering their need to feel comfortable with what they know and can do. Second, I urge them to make themselves open to musical exploration. Third, where they feel unknowledgeable, I strive to give them the tools to expand their comprehension. 

        The ongoing development of my musical sensibilities and research is reflected in my commitment to my private students’ development of their artistic and intellectual pursuits. While a Visiting Assistant Professor of Composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, my studio was comprised of undergraduate students who were pursuing majors in Composition as well as those who were pursuing a major with the dual concentration in Composition and TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts). While I am enthusiastic about the discovery process of lower division students, I also enjoy working upper division students who are committed to learning how prepare themselves to be responsible artists in the future. 

        Creative versatility is one of the most critical components that I strive to instill in my composition students. While the internet, cheaper computers, and powerful software have made producing and promoting one's music easier, becoming a 'successful' composer has become actually harder. While a young composer seeks to develop a ‘voice’ and comes to terms with their audience, the same student must develop a versatile set of compositional, instrumental, and technological skills to ensure performances of their work. In my studio, I strive to engender my students with a sense of self-motivation; self-reliance that goes beyond composing a piece and expecting someone else to play it. I urge them to conduct and perform their own work, if the instrumentation includes their own instrument (which is also critical: a composition student must develop a modicum of instrumental experience, be it their own voice, instrument, or technology). As a student develops a piece, I help them create a timeline based on a proposed performance date: when the score and parts need to be delivered, scheduling rehearsals, arranging for and audio/visual recording, etc. After the performance, I encourage my students to build their own website to make their portfolio available - which takes technological and self-promotional know-how. I make it clear that if a students want to 'get the gig' in this artistic climate, they have to be versatile. 

        My composition seminars vary in scope and aesthetic topics including notation, instrumentation, orchestration, counterpoint, electronic/computer/interactive music and critical listening sessions reviewing compositions from the 20th and 21st centuries. I design my seminars to challenge the students’ individual levels of creativity; combine inherent musical interests with ways of musical thinking that are unfamiliar; learn how to collaborate and develop musical ideas with performers; and prepare a composition for performance. 

        My dedication to teaching has been recognized by the University of Georgia through the Outstanding Teacher Assistant Award and by the University of California San Diego through the Summer Teaching Fellows program. Through my emphasis that hearing is not just a natural or physical sense that can be learned, honed and used to perceive the mechanics of music. I reinforce that hearing is a way of becoming attuned to music’s social, cultural and political contexts in order to expose other and, perhaps, more radical meanings. Teaching in these diverse settings has enabled me to emphasize the importance of both practical musical skills as well as the cultural, social and political contexts in which music is imagined, created and produced. Because musical knowledge and ability is intertwined with one’s personality, I understand that every student I teach in these settings needs a slightly different approach from another, a different kind of attention, and perhaps a different kind of coaching.