As a teacher there can be no greater gift than to experience the full and complete trust of a student, and to know the beauty and power of assisting another human being in the process of shaping their identity. In channelling my nurturing instincts as a teacher I strive towards a flourishing of authentic evolution in the artists I work with, validating their own instincts to take possession of personal imagination, curiosity, and intuition. By exploring such innate wisdom concurrently with the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, great traction is brought to the innovation process.
We live in a society that, yearning for transcendent experience, cleaves to music more than ever before, yet suffers simultaneously from a preponderance of materialist, mechanistic, and reductionist thinking that ironically normalizes isolation and the subjugation of individual creative process. We live in a society that venerates vanity, and frequently confuses it with art. As a distillation of communication, art is the antithesis of such dysfunction — its power lies in its ability to liberate us from what holds us back, and connect us to what matters most. So truly, while art may be more important than it has ever been, even more valuable now are people who understand what it actually is.
How strange then, that by their own testimony, music students are so often haunted by a vague sense of professional futility. How many of us are, as well? Even as the ability to touch transcendent experience is what nourishes us, many music students, often extremely gifted ones, walk away from the discipline out of a perceived lack of opportunity. While this alone is a grim reality, I believe the starker reality lies in their sense of powerlessness to reinvent a culture that appears unable or unwilling to sustain them. In fact, they have tremendous power to solidify the ground they stand on by innovating new models, new contexts, new connections, new approaches, and new cultures. To do this, they require both skill and traction, including emotional traction — consisting of confidence, courage, and stamina. Teachers have enormous power to provide this.
Embracing my role as a teacher means guiding individuals through the process of learning about both futility and transcendence as a means to neutralize this despair within themselves, then to trust in their ability to address it in their professional lives by engaging the full strength of their skills and by giving voice to their innovative faculties. Normalizing the chaos of the maturation process, I strive to instil equilibrium and confidence, and speak tirelessly to the need to refuse compromise neither to one’s physical, mental, and spiritual health, nor artistic intellect and integrity.
Whether in the context of studio or classroom, there is very little in my approach to teaching and mentorship that is not grounded in my perspective of human interaction more generally: personal authenticity is central and fundamental, ego must be in equilibrium and right-relation, and the teacher is, in essence, a sort of artistic parent, within the boundaries of a mandate for musical mentorship and instruction.
To be a witness of art in our time is to witness that true art is often abstract, poorly understood, and its full importance and power vastly underestimated. I am committed to remediating this condition to the best of my ability: to clarify abstraction without betraying it, to verbalize intellectual concepts so they are accessible and to ensure they are grasped, and to bear witness to the true power of artists to help us know and understand what transcendence actually feels like.
To be a teacher is to continually accept that I need more knowledge, to help my students become stronger than myself, to encourage them to love who they are most profoundly so that they are able to love and respect those around them fully, and to insist they dig out a new infrastructure for professional artistry in their own time with their own bare hands. To be a teacher is to earn the trust and respect of my students and my colleagues, by testifying to the value of who they are most authentically.
Toronto, August 2017