While teaching students of all ages and skill levels from all over the world for over ten years, cultural humility has been my most important belief. My teaching philosophy focuses on honoring the person in front of me and understanding each individual’s situation and background. I believe that teaching music is not only transmitting a piece of information to students but rather mentoring a whole person and helping students figure out who they want to be. As I truly think that one’s own values and beliefs are often reflected in students’ playing and learning, I always hope to be aware of those notions and try my best to be reflective of their own background and situation first. It is significant that we understand the notions come from the combination of cultures that people experience in their everyday lives. Music is even more valued when it is shared. Since sharing starts with human interaction, it is critical that the quality of relationship with students is always rich.
If teachers stay open minded and listen to students’ artistic voice, rather than prescribing lists of things to do, I’m sure we can avoid microaggression assumption and have better communication in making music together. Then, my following goal would be matching each individual’s need and their objective. For example, a double major college student who is going to be a brain surgeon in the future or someone who wants to audition for master’s degree in music would need a different expectation and mentorship in piano learning. Noticing and knowing what they actually need are very essential. Even in class piano, I always ask my students what they would need the most and how I can support them better.
My other goal of teaching is to keep students’ interest and curiosity towards music and finally to create a self-sufficient learner. I believe that curiosity and interest are the foundation for the learning experience. Regardless of how students end up taking piano lessons with me—whether it was one’s parents decision or it was one of the course requirements that they have to finish— I always try my best to find a way for them to engage with music and create curiosity. Building inquisitiveness makes a personal connection with what they learn that results in nuanced interpretation. This connection produces inspiration and forms a driving force for students to keep going with their musical journey.
I believe that these two elements can bring active involvement in learning, which eventually leads to becoming a self-sufficient learner. I always make sure that students avoid auto-pilot mode and actively engage during lessons. To make that happen, I encourage students’ exploration and experimentation with different styles. When suggesting things or sharing practice tips, I explain reasons behind and discuss with students. Growing up and studying with many different piano instructors, my experience was that, in fact, not many teachers explain reasons when thy ask students what to do because teachers think that it is so common sense for them that they don’t feel the need. I remember I just followed them as a student trusting their views and interpretations but looking back, it could have been greater if it was a little more active-learning experience so that students can develop into a self-sufficient learner quicker and have a better understanding interpreting music overall.
In order to stimulate students’ curiosity and achieve their active involvement, I think that a collaborative and multi-sensory learning environment is imperative. I teach not only the content of the pieces or materials they play, but also the other aspects so that their level of understanding music becomes higher and richer. I believe a well-rounded curriculum should involve instruction in music theory, sight-singing and -reading, ear-training, history, collaborative performance and presentation skills. I sing and dance around students to drag their soul to music time to time and ask them to be a poet and story teller about the pieces that they are working on. My ultimate goal as a teacher is to lead students to let them become a musician who truly understands and internalizes music, and who can communicate that deep power of music through their connection with themselves and the audience. I hope my students discover what we play is eventually life.