If you are considering learning to play the Native American flute and would like to work with a teacher, please read on. Dr. Kathleen Joyce-Grendahl, Executive Director of the World Flute Society, requested I address the following questions to be included in her excellent quarterly publication Overtones! Go to www.worldflutesociety.org for more information.
I appreciate the opportunity to articulate where I am coming from to be sure it is a good fit for my students. When folks are looking for a teacher, it is good to know where their teacher stands on these points. Here are mine:
My overall teaching philosophy?
Aligning with my students’ goals so that they get what they are really looking for is a big part of my philosophy. Some students just want to learn the basics so that they can play from the heart. Other students want to learn everything I can teach them about playing the NAF and maybe even go on to teach. My goal is to be the teacher who provides the education they desire, while gently introducing them to the idea of developing their abilities beyond what they may have considered on their own.
For children, online lessons can offer a solution to parents who may be strapped for time. Often, parents would like to provide music lessons to their children, but are hesitant to make a heavy investment of time and money. With online NAF lessons, their child is given an easy-to-learn instrument that may open the door to other instruments or may become the one instrument that brings the joy of playing music to them for life.
What is most important to me when I teach?
Establishing a comfort level is most important. Playing the Native American flute (NAF) is a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Many people have either never played an instrument before, or have played other instruments but their lessons had a great deal of anxiety and pressure attached. Playing the NAF can bring profound peace to the player. Establishing a relationship based on encouragement and positive reinforcement is important so my students feel comfortable during their lessons.
If a student wants to develop technical skills, use a metronome, and have a structure, we will go there. If a student wants to just learn to feel comfortable playing the pentatonic scale, that’s what we do. It is very much student-directed, with encouragement to at least learn the spectrum of where they can go with their flute.
I grew up playing piano. My teacher was so much more than a piano teacher to me. She became a grandmother-figure to me over the years. The relationship with my students is something I consider very important, along with delivering high-quality instruction aligned with their goals, even when their goals change as they progress.
What essential advice do I impart to my students, regardless of playing level and experience?
Learning to play the NAF is an opportunity to enjoy being musical without the pressure often associated with other instruments that may take years to play. Imparting best practices right away helps them avoid bad habits that would inhibit their progress. I also love encouraging them by letting them know that they will be delighted at their progress after just 10 hours of playing the NAF with group or private lessons.
Along with what I have to offer, I enjoy letting them know of the many resources out there and the beautiful community they join when they play the NAF. From online resources to flute schools around the country to local flute circles, I want to help connect the dots so they can connect deep within themselves, and with the community of flute players.