Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New challenges

I love teaching. I love private students, and I love classes. I'm always a bit nervous before starting a new class, like the oboe methods class I'm teaching at Simpson. Then it starts, and I get into the swing of things. I tell ya though, these kids are in for a wild ride. It's a large group (16--at least not 20 like they originally thought it would be), so they are rotating instruments and two are being taught simultaneously. 5 woodwind instruments in one semester=crazy. They'll still have the same amount of classes per instrument...a whopping 5 classes. Yes, 5 classes in which to "learn" the oboe. It was a bit of a whirlwind the last time I taught this class, so I was more prepared this time. I told them we'd be going at break-neck speed and to make sure to stop me if I was leaving them in the dust. Of course, I want as much hands-on (and mouth-on) experience as possible, but with 8 students (and 7 oboes...), they aren't really going to get the personal attention they need. I'm doing my best though.

One girl was particularly frustrated today. I'd checked all the reeds, so I know they were vibrating, but she just couldn't get a sound out. I couldn't take as much time out of class as I would've liked to help her, although I always do make a point of stopping for people's challenges. It is an education class afterall, and these students primarily need to know how to address these problems if and when encountered in their own classroom. Said student stayed for a few minutes after class, I gave her a different reed, and I walked her through how to form an embouchure again. There are many different approaches you can take with students, and one thing I love so much about teaching is that it really forces you to re-evaluate how you're doing things yourself. It also helps to look at problems from different angles. A great teacher will never run out of angles. Peter Cooper is a great example of a great teacher. I try to emulate him quite a bit in my own studio. Anyway, I think the analogy that finally seemed to click for her was imagining sucking a really thick milkshake through a straw. Obviously we don't suck when we play (at least not literally!), but the imagery is good. If you bite down on the straw, no milkshake will come out. You need to use the corners of your mouth to keep the straw open. She finally got some peeps out of her reed, but she still seemed pretty disheartened at her first oboe experience. I hope she left feeling a bit more encouraged though. Reed practice this weekend!


Jill Cathey said...

Sounds like your year is getting off to a great start! RE your troubled oboe player: what is her major instrument? just wondering.

Did you get all the reeds going that Cooper sent? I am thinking I will have my students try his reeds when I get started this fall (waiting until after the opera...too much going on!)

Jillian said...

I think her major instrument is flute...I could be wrong though. We also have a lot of singers at this school, and for many of them, this is the first wind instrument they've ever picked up.

I did get all Cooper's reeds...check out his blog for the whole scoop.

Hope you're having fun with opera!