"Tom absolutely loves his lessons. You make a great difference in his life."
- Dottie Whitlock, Parent of a Middle School Trombone Student.
"I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate all your years of dedication as Dan's trombone teacher. You were his first teacher, and the development and opportunities he has had with your guidance have been immeasurable and beyond my highest expectations. I am so glad he stuck with it all these years (9 and still counting), and that we were lucky enough to have you there as his teacher, role model, and friend, watching him grow from beginner to advanced player. You have always been positive and encouraging and I truly feel this has nurtured his love of the trombone and his confidence as a player."
- Chris, Parent of an Elementary through High School Student, 1991-1998.
- Bass Trombone
- Euphonium (Baritone)
The middle school or intermediate years are a time to shore up any weaknesses from the first years of learning, and begin to build some serious skills in preparation for high school challenges. It is the time to more thoroughly understand concepts such as 6/8 time, syncopation, key signatures, and other aspects of music reading. It is a time when a kid begins to transition from a child's to an adult's physique and this brings opportunities for developing range and a stronger, clearer sound.
Once a strong foundation has been set, a student can begin to climb confidently, layering skill upon skill, and begin to progress towards truly towering levels of ability. As skills are learned, students experience the excitement of being able to play music of their choice, including selections that would have previously been too difficult or complex for them.
Writing, testing, and revising my Intermediate Trombone Method, which I self-publish, has been a key exercise for me in understanding the educational challenges in detail for players of this age range. I greatly enjoy using it in my own teaching and watching students thrive through it!
I incorporate jazz improvisation and playing by ear into my lessons. I have developed the "Easiest Blues Play Along CD", which is now in use by other teachers as well, as an entry level vehicle for exploring blues improvisation. In addition to being an important skill, improvisation provides variety in the lesson, and an excellent motivational boost for young students.
The middle school years can be a golden time for a student to work with a good teacher, as skills learned now can lead to more open doors and musical opportunities in the coming years.
I have developed a comprehensive set of assessment tools for use with new students. These checklists and graded playing and rhythm exercises allow me to efficiently and thoroughly identify a new student’s strengths and weaknesses in a manner that is enjoyable to the student.
I like to invest some time at the start of lessons in conversation, to get to know my students better, find out what is going on in their lives, and relax them.
- Warm-ups and Basic Skill Building
Simple warm-ups help teach the building blocks of music, how the instrument works, and establish good habits. I use a lot of demonstration and imitation in this part of the lesson.
- Assigned Material
Normally, music has been assigned with specific goals for improvement and the burden now shifts to the student to demonstrate what they have learned since the last lesson. The student's questions are discussed, and confusing topics explained as time allows.
Feedback is given and any achievements are celebrated and recorded. When the student is having trouble, we go through the practice process together in order to master the problem and teach how to practice.
- Goal Setting
I like to be as specific as possible in setting goals for the next lesson and attempt to pick goals that are readily achievable. As time allows we play through any new music to get the ball rolling and clear up any misconceptions about the assignment.
- Model for Practice
The lesson becomes a model for the student's own practice sessions. The content of the lessons establishes what the student should be practicing at home, and the standard of quality and effort set in the lesson hopefully becomes an ideal for the student in practice.
Communication is the name of the game. If a private student doesn't understand what I have told them, then I need to explain it in a different way.
Some books that have been instrumental in developing my teaching style are:
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-70863-5.
- How to Get Your Child to Practice Without Resorting to Violence!!, Cynthia Richards. Advance Publications. Available from Ithaca Talent Education (800-338-7483).
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele and Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Avon Books, 1999.
- What to Say to Get What You Want, Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-57712-7.
Some of the key principles of communication from these books are:
- Put first things first.
- Expect the best.
- Seek to understand then be understood. Listen before talking, think before acting.
- Get to the point.
- Change what they do, not who they are.
- Model the behavior you desire.
- Adapt your approach to the person.
- Provide for dignity and self-respect.
- Appeal to self-interest using natural rewards.
- Rejoice at success.
- Feel your losses with remorse not guilt.
- Think win/win--synergize.
- Sharpen the saw--take time out to improve yourself and your teaching methods.
- Be positive and enthusiastic.
- Use tension dissolvers.
Here are some links to pages on this site that will help you get a good sense of what my teaching is like.
- Student Success Stories
- Student News - see what my students are doing
- Audio Sound files - hear recordings of my students
- My Top Ten Tips for Teaching Trombone
- See Handouts I have developed for my teaching
- Books that have influenced my teaching
- Also, please see the appropriate category on the links to the left.
To schedule a lesson, or If you have other questions about my teaching, please feel free to email me.