The Ramblings of a Teacher

Surgeon’s General Warning:

Rant to follow, you have been forewarned.

:steps on soap box:

The internet is such a great resource for all your various needs, interests, or questions. On the flip side, though, there are quite a few websites that provide information that is…well, questionable.

When it comes to clarinet playing, the internet has always been my last resort to figuring things out. Those “clarinet” websites, frankly, make me nervous and have a lot of articles on techniques and methods that rarely produce the results the author thinks they do.

It’s not that I question the validity of those websites, okay maybe I am…just a little, it is more about the intention and purpose of the article that I question. I really wonder if many of these “clarinet” teachers have thoroughly thought about the things they’re preaching or publishing on the internet. Many articles are slap dash, written in haste, providing poor examples, with no reference to appropriate sources, et al. It’s as if their article was written as a means to give themselves some sense of validation as a teacher.

Students can read anything anywhere.

I have mostly kept my mouth shut about these issues, and have rarely said anything. But it’s gotten to the point where I can’t sit quietly anymore. As a teacher, I’m devoted to growth of my students education as musicians and clarinetist and feel really strongly about teachers that have no experience, or poor experience, teaching students. Teachers often times do far more damage than good, even though they have good intentions and good motives.

It was last week when all of this came to a head.  One of my students came in to the studio with some issues, as to be expected, related to the embouchure and squeaking. The parent told me that they searched online and found a website that helped diagnose the problems. They told me that the website said something about the embouchure being too tight and that was why he was squeaking or not getting a sound out. In effect, the student had undone all the embouchure development we focused on weeks before. And honestly, it’s not the parent or student’s fault, they had good intentions. But the advise this website gave was incorrect….wildly incorrect.

There are numerous symptoms and issues that you MUST take into account when diagnosing a problem. You just can’t make a rash diagnoses based on one symptom. The problem, in my students case was hand position. As a teacher, you can recognize the source of a problem by the type of squeak, e.g. hollow squeaks, that are lower in resonance, and resulting in a multi-phonic type sound is the result of either the 2nd or 3rd finger of the right hand not covering the tone hole.

I politely explained to the student, and parent, that if there are any issues throughout the week to contact me first. It’s frustrating, not only to me, but also to the student because we lost really valuable lesson time trying to fix the advice of a website.

I have spent years researching pedagogical methods, learning different schools of thought on technique and development. A lot of my time was spent reading every pedagogical book on the clarinet; I wrote articles, gave lectures and clinics and worked closely with band directors across the country. I devoted all this time because I wanted to be the best teacher possible. At that point in my career, I had student after student walking into my studio with some serious issues, issues that took years to fix. I didn’t do all this research and study for myself, it was for the benefit of my students, so that they could better play their instrument and enjoy the benefits of playing music.

Music educators are required to have some form of accreditation and certification to teach in a public school. Yet anyone that can play the clarinet can start a private studio with no accreditation, nothing. There’s really nothing I can do about this, I know that, but at least I can try to help educate current and future teachers in developing their own pedagogical skills.

Be a responsible teacher, know what you’re teaching! You owe it to your students and their future.

Yes I’m heated about this and likely throwing things out of proportion. I apologize if this offends some people, that’s not my intention. There has to be some sense of accountability for our actions, especially as a teacher.

-end rant-


3 responses to “The Ramblings of a Teacher

  1. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.

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