In the course of my musical life I experienced the joy and profound satisfaction to communicate my love of music by teaching it, and I was lucky that way to get a very wide and varied experience in private and in music schools, with students of all backgrounds, levels, and ages. In fact in many ways I can say that I learned just as much from them than they learned from me!
My first and foremost principle in teaching music is to open the student to his or her own personal connection to music, so that the learning process is always nourished by profound joy and motivation, deepening that connection. That is essential because of course learning music and an instrument such as piano simply does not happen without efforts. Therefore they have to be constantly fueled by a real yearning and excitement not only to get to a certain goal but also and more importantly on every step of the road…as that road unwinds endlessly in the life of the musically inclined…which is of course part of the beauty and magic of the whole adventure (and what keeps musicians young 🙂
Since I have myself been attracted to an array of musical genres I am open to all styles of music that the student would want to learn as long as it makes him or her happy.
That does not mean, of course that my teaching bypasses the study of important technical skills. On the contrary, as a former student of the conservatories in France I am well aware of the importance of technique, only not as a goal in and of itself but as a means to better express the music to be performed. (“Technique is like a sharp pencil” Richie Beirach). Those technical skills can be practiced within any genre of music, along with appropriate exercises adapted to that genre.
On the subject of technique and practice – as the learning of playing an instrument is mainly learning to practice efficiently – my main principles of teaching piano are directly based on the pedagogy of Madeline Bruser with whom I studied in New York city. http://www.artofpracticing.com/. I adapted the pedagogy to all kinds of music (as Madeline deals only with classical music). But like her I always insist on posture and basic physical ease as we do play with our body (not only our hands!) and have to make sure we are not only not injuring it but also getting the best of it. A few basic principles of weight, force, balance and energy go a long way.
I also feel very strongly about exposing the student to a minimum of improvisation experience. I have myself been somewhat deprived of that aspect in my early musical development, which at some point lead me to think that improvisation was only the gift of a few privileged ones. I am of course convinced now, and have been for a while (!), that improvisation lies in the reach of anybody who wishes to explore that way of expressing music, and furthermore I think it is an essential element of the learning process at any level. In other words it is never too early or too late to learn to improvise – or more so unleash our improvisational potential – and incorporate that aspect in ones musical growth. Improvisation can be developed again in any genre of music. I am always guiding the student to a better understanding of whatever music he or she is playing through comprehending its main structure, rules and principles. This, first of all always makes the learning process much easier (as it is simply always easier to learn something one understands) as well as gives the student the ability to reuse the material in some creative way, by improvising over the piece or even creating their own piece of music if so inclined (be it 3 or 4 bars as starter). We do not have to be a Mozart to enjoy the unique joy and incredible feeling of accomplishment and self expression that goes with composing. Here again the concept of enjoyment and fun goes before anything and especially any judgement of “value”. Easier said than done, of course…
This bring me to the last but certainly not least point: a constant effort and reminder to not get trapped and stuck in self judgement. This demon slowly but surely enters our system consciously or not, as we bathe in a society that has to put value and competition into everything , so often spoiling the joy and fun.
If we can keep our mind concentrated on our love of music and our pleasure at learning it we can be liberated by this sneaky voice of self judgement, and enjoy playing, practicing, composing and also performing to share with others that joy and love of music. And on it goes…