Teaching

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Background 

Ever since I taught my first class as a doctoral teaching assistant at Cornell University nearly 30 years ago, I’ve been inexorably drawn to the shared experience of discovery, development and growth that is at the core of the teacher/student alliance. Indeed, a highlight for me during my years of graduate study was my daily interaction with the undergraduate music students. Whether I was giving a lecture to an auditorium of 200, leading a class of 20, or meeting with a few students for some after-hours tutoring, I welcomed my hours of teaching as ballast to the rigors of my own academic program.

In 1992, soon after passing my four-year review as Assistant Professor of Music at Middlebury College, I posed a tough question to myself: should I continue on in my tenure-track position; or should I jump ship and make a go of it as a full time composer? While I knew I would miss the classroom if I were to step outside of academe, I also knew that unless I did, I would never be able to lead the kind of “composerly” life I had envisioned for myself since childhood.

With precious little deliberation, I chose the road less traveled and set to work planning a life that would allow me to flow with my own flow, in hopes of making the most of my particular skills and aptitudes as a composer and teacher outside of the academy.

For me, the composerly life leaned heavily in the direction of being able to configure each day on its own terms. This meant having unlimited time to paddle in my kayak, hike in the woods, connect with other artist friends who were out on their own, and perfect my béarnaise sauce. Waking to a clean slate each morning meant that I could follow a flexible though rigorous schedule of composition and study, with a focus on developing my craft and art, while living in a kind of “gregarious solitude.” My daily work template was—and, two decades later, still is—a productive, positive, and dynamic experience. I embrace the end of the work day with gratitude, and I greet each dawn with renewed excitement and wonder.

Foreground

In the last several years, I’ve taken steps to create more opportunities to share with others what I’ve learned (so far) about the art and craft of composition. I’ve begun teaching private students over Skype; and I’ve been accepting invitations to give residencies and master classes at universities, colleges and conservatories in conjunction with performances of my music. I find both activities to be stimulating, fun and always fulfilling.

Private Lessons

Often, I hear from instrumentalists who had devoted their school years to honing their playing and performance skills, only to wish later that they had taken the opportunity to study composition. Or I hear from young composers who seek to hone down their craft a bit more in specific ways. For these individuals—experienced musicians who are fluent in notation and have an overarching sense of the traditions of Western music—I am available for consultations and lessons over Skype or FaceTime.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of working together, contact me, and we’ll make a date to hook up via Skype or FaceTime and have an informal chat over a cup of coffee. After we have a chance to visit and assess together where you are as a composer and what your needs might be, I’ll be able to determine what kind of guidance I can offer you; and, if I am to be part of that picture, we can look at the time and costs involved.

As I recently wrote to a university student inquiring about composition lessons with me:

This is not about you “making a grade;” this is not about “passing” or “failing.” This is about me sharing with you the body of knowledge I have gained over the years and presenting it to you in a methodical, efficient, and orderly manner, with a focus on that which is at the very core of all successful music composition—craft. We'll explore together how to apply that craft to musical materials of your own design, which, by default, will be both coherent and relevant to you and your composerly voice; and we'll learn to design appropriate scaffolding to support the creation of compelling musical narratives that will reflect who YOU are becoming as an artist. 

This is not about me pounding my fists and telling you “THIS is the way to compose music!"  This is about us discovering together how YOU compose, who YOU are becoming, what YOU want to say, and what YOU can contribute to the world by way of this elegant, seductive art form that has enchanted us both.

I look forward to hearing from you!


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