For this spring semester, I am interning at the Josiah Quincy Upper School as a saxophone coach to 3 eighth grade students. Generally, I come into teach Kyle at 2 pm and then spend the next hour with Valencia and Jack together. To some MIE Concentration students at NEC, private instrumental lessons may seem like a no-brainer â€“ just explain to them what you already know so expertly well (one on one). Having very little experience with teaching beginner level students, I had no idea what to expect. I had even suggested taking on a whole classroom of 25 before agreeing to start out with the 3 students I have at present.
In terms of documentation, I have audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed some of the contents from one of my lessons below. Listening back, I realized how hard it was for me to articulate basic musical/instrumental concepts. There is one instance where I tell Kyle the wrong fingering to a note, spend some time wondering why that note wonâ€™t sound, and finally have to take the instrument into my own hands in order to find out that I had given him the wrong information. It is difficult going back to the fundamentals of music, concepts and principles that are almost mechanically ingrained within the memory. Preparing lesson plans for this semesterâ€™s internship, I had not taken into account how basic these kidsâ€™ understanding of music actually was. And the dilemma Iâ€™m faced with now is whether I am even equipped to teach younger kids, or whether I am more apt teaching at a college level. Is it worth it for me to spend the extra time reviewing major and minor scales, when my plan for teaching originally involved conceptual approaches and advanced techniques for improvisation? I just donâ€™t know if I have the patience or the talent to a pursue a career in teaching children, although these three months have certainly taught me a lot about my own learning and development. In spite of my experience and background, I fumble over my words in explaining the simplest of ideas, such as syncopation. Slowly, I am figuring out more efficient/effective methods for teaching, but I must emphasize slowly. Progress is grim, but the students are very patient, they smile, and are eager to learn. For now, I am comforted with the fact that as long as I am not inhibiting their development, I can only help.
With Kyle, after reading over the music he plays with the 8th grade band, I ask him to play and transpose certain scales by ear: C, G, F major and blue scales. I sing while he is to hear and figure out the particular intervals of the scale on his instrument. We still have to review fingerings, so the process goes by a little slow. After reviewing the sounds of C and G blue and major scales, I show him the form of the blues. With quarter notes, we walk a basic blues progression, just hitting roots. I have him play it without the paper, and then eventually ask him to improvise using the scales we just â€œlearnedâ€. He seems to be a natural, and I get enjoyment from just listening to him play and repeat ideas that make sense. In addition to working on tone and reading, I basically am having him learn more scales by ear for now, using them to improvise as the end goal.
With Valencia and Jack, it is somewhat harder, especially since Iâ€™m dealing with them as a group as opposed to one on one. We spend a lot more time on reading the music they play during band. I try to get them to play in tune with slightly better results. When reading, I always get my metronome out and make sure their rhythm is together. When rhythms are off, I find it difficult to explain why, and can only demonstrate, which isnâ€™t very effective in getting them to understand (this is what Iâ€™m referring to in my having a hard time explaining syncopation and subdivision). So far, outside of the band material, Iâ€™ve brought in etude and duet books, demonstrating the sounds of classical saxophone and vibrato. I have also brought in a Louis Armstrong solo book and had them play out of that as well. I am searching for new ideas and better ways to keep them stimulated and will continue to bring in new material. I also need to play for them some recordings of saxophonists and improvisers relevant to the topics being worked on.
– Incomplete transcription of audio excerpts from two lessons:
Umâ€¦.maybe we can tryâ€¦..I donâ€™t knowâ€¦you know the Blue and major scales with Câ€¦.maybe some other scales? We can try those over the same thing (walking the blues).
- Making limitations, but your just kind of improvising over those scales basically, and then I brought a book of Lester Young solos and we could maybe play them.
- I just got this reed because my other one cracked inside, but it feels weird.
- Oh really. Iâ€™ve got these ones still.
-Thanks! (Plays the blues scale after putting on the reed)
- (Later) Allrightâ€¦ Can you sing thatâ€”basically what you just played?
- Sing it?
- Probably not.
- (I sing it, he hums along. We work at it for a while) Yeah. I meanâ€¦I donâ€™t want go through the intervals or how to form the scale in order to transpose itâ€¦likeâ€¦soâ€¦transposing just means if youâ€™re going the next key or whatever, you want to play it in C, Iâ€™d rather you hear, rather than just, â€œOh thereâ€™s a minor third, and then a whole step, and then a half stepâ€. Thatâ€™sâ€¦it shouldnâ€™t work that way. Soâ€¦you just heard it and were able to sing it with G, maybe we can try to sing it with C.