MUSIC

Teaching Studio

I teach independently at my home in New York City, and in clinic/masterclass settings at universities, music schools and high schools.

The heart of my teaching follows three threads:

 

The first thread is about the art of music, about the possibilities which open when we approach making music with our whole being. Music is an art and a profession, it can be entertaining, it can be a path for developing our abilities and enjoying what we can do as we grow, it can be many things. Often I have students, sometimes very fine players already making their living in the musical community, who are seeking someone to grant them permission to dig deeply into themselves and to love making music as much as they intuitively know is possible. Some musicians already know, others are waiting to hear for the first time: whenever you are with your instrument, you are in love with music, you already understand that music can be a tool of self discovery equal to anything in the world.

Our opportunity as musicians is to uncover within ourselves the truths we have to hear. If we go deeply enough, our personal truths become universal.  We have the chance to take listeners on their own journey as we take ours. That's how music works, all around the world. From this point of view, audiences will always be there for us, since every human has the need to uncover the deeply personal. Since not everyone can take the time or has the inclination to become an artist, our role is to function for ourselves and for many others at once. If we do this with integrity and skill, we will transform ourselves and be of deep service to the world we live in. That's the power within music; the reason why we discuss the details of playing with such excitement and passion.

So the first thread of my teaching, and I hope everyone's, is helping people reach inside and connect with music at the deepest possible personal level.

 

The second thread of my teaching is the idea that the best way to play is with ease and efficiency. When you understand the essence of each technique and how it works with your mind, your body and your breath, bit by bit everything gets easy. With that sense of ease each musical encounter can be unique, expressive and successful. If I were to have a teaching motto, it would be Everything is easy; the only difficulty is getting to the point where everything is easy.

My students always seem a bit surprised when they begin to discover that even playing more than one instrument can be "easy", if with each instrument you solve problems of tension and inefficiency. Along this path, there is tremendous common ground between the saxophone, flute and clarinet, as well as string instruments, voice, and brass instruments. Recently, after a flute masterclass I gave, the faculty accompanist came up to me and thanked me for all the things that will be of use to her and her piano students. This happens if you get to the root principles of using our bodies to make music.

Discovering the fundamental principles and uprooting problems of inefficiency and tension is the best method for each student to progress rapidly and individually. After all, since we're all in unique bodies, we will naturally sound unique and "just like ourselves" when we dissolve whatever problems are holding us back. In teaching, my job is to assist this process, to accelerate and inform it, and to keep it focused, but the process belongs to the students.

 

The third thread of my teaching is a combination of providing great detail of the technicalities of playing, and helping the student, when needed, develop an overall plan for development.

The technicalities include ways to identify and release tension or inefficiency, as well as logical and effective ways of building the essential techniques, from beginning to advanced levels. In my view, the most basic playing tasks done perfectly are exactly the same as the highest level of artistry. Music is a perfect case of the beginning meeting the end, and so each aspect of technique, such as breathing, articulation, embouchure, intonation, and so forth, can always be approached from the purest fundamental level and the highest advanced level simultaneously. Everything works together.

The aspect of overall plan for each student ranges from putting together a daily practice pattern of fundamentals, scales, etudes, repertoire, and listening, to helping the student prepare to get (more) professional work, build the courage to write and record personal music, deepen their own teaching methods, or wake up an untapped love of simply making music. One student recently told me that when he's playing along the lines of ease, efficiency and personal depth as we have worked on together, his relationship with his girlfriend is much better. Although now I'm not sure if he's coming to study for music's sake or relationship's sake, I'm nonetheless very happy.

In this way, technical details return to the broad fundamental purpose of making music, as referred to in the first thread above. Everything works together if the understanding is correct, and studying music is a fantastic way to experience understanding in action.

I teach serious students of all levels in saxophone, flute and clarinet, with a special interest in helping multiple instrumentalists develop as flutists. In addition, anyone interested in breath use and finding the pain-free balance between effort and relaxation is welcome. When working with musicians seeking to recover from problems such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tmj problems, breathing issues or focal dystonia (with which I've been able to be of some help), I freely employ methods of Chinese Medicine such as qigong exercises, specialized meditations and specific recommendations in other modalities.