Teaching

I teach both violin and mandolin, both privately and at music schools. For more information on lessons, please head to my contact page and drop me a line. I run my private lessons from my home in Parkdale (about 30 minutes east of the Melbourne CBD).

My Teaching Philosophy

I didn’t really start getting into teaching until my second decade of playing. I had wonderful instrumental and theoretical teachers and consider myself very lucky in this regard.

I was a different sort of student, an adult. I took AMEB Violin exams successfully, gave University recitals and followed the established Classical Music assessments conventions. I also taught myself how to accompany a guitarist and how to improvise. I also taught myself Celtic and World “Fiddle Music” mainly by ear. My assessments were more practical in this field i.e. how I was developing in a musical context at gigs and recording sessions. As I developed, I received more performance opportunities and made a better living as a musician.pete3

So, I have always been a bit different. I had the conventional “Classical” Violin education and was also self taught in Fiddle. There was/is a lot to like and dislike about the two approaches.

I had the privilege of working as an Ensemble Director at the old Institute of Education at Melbourne University, and later The Faculty of Music at Melbourne University for ten years.

This was a real eye opener. The students were developed musicians on a variety of instruments. Beautiful tone, exceptional readers but once the music notation was taken away, 95% of students were rendered mute. I was appalled. The process of originating and playing music had been robbed from these students. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Sure, these students were fine orchestral musicians, but vacancies are limited for orchestral players and many just gave up.

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The spontaneity and creativity of students had been ignored by extremely domineering opinionated ego driven teachers. The type of music educator that thinks that they own music. Watch out, there is a lot of them.

The school education system is culpable with sucking out the creativity and joy from young musicians. The private school system is a chief offender in rendering this creative art form to a repetitive art form – breeding obsequious robotic players playing the same old repertoire, year after year. Sure, there is so much to be learnt playing in ensembles and orchestra’s, but to stop there is negligent. My theory is that private schools have been set up by people who prosper from the extant eco/political system that thrives upon members following blindly societal conventions whether right or wrong. Why teach people to think creatively through music? It will only cause trouble. Teach them to be repetitive not creative and who cares what happens to them once they have left school, just as long as they are competent enough to populate the school orchestra to attract further enrolments for the school/corporation thus generating more profit.

The above model might be fine if you want a generation of musicians to follow, not to lead and create. I worked in such places for near a decade. From time to time a musician would be in charge and would encourage a creative approach to music as well as following the conventions. But my last years were dominated by ex-musicians and bureaucrats who knew only one way – and creativity was not tolerated.

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Still I learnt a little bit from them and am grateful for their perspective. They answered my above questions regarding how university students could be so lacking as overall musicians.

To sum up my overall approach to teaching I refer back to a paper I wrote at Post Graduate level on teaching. Rather than having one system for everybody it is vital that we draw the music out of a student and adapt our teaching to facilitate this. Technique and reading are important but don’t have to be achieved immediately. I have had young children start with the most bizarre bow holds you could see, who also read tablature. The intention is to get playing music immediately rather than spending months with no music while correct technique is obsessed over. With immediate results the student feels a sense of accomplishment and excitement about playing music. The technical corrections occur over time and have, if not been interrupted, seen a successful transition to sound technique.

For playing over a long period, sensible technique is of major importance and it is something I am fanatical about as my students will attest to. With sound technique injury is less likely to occur and quite simply, you play your instrument better.

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So to summarize, I teach from a perspective of the creative not repetitive arts. I teach a wide variety of repertoire and am always playing and discovering repertoire over many genres. I am fanatical over the journey about a sensible technique that will serve a player. I love teaching people how to accompany and improvise. My overall education philosophy is based upon what I have been taught, observed and what I have learnt from Martial Arts. Anything is possible with the right mindset. I have a very busy teaching roster that is a glowing example of these philosophies. Might see you at a lesson soon.

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